Opinion: Journalism: Is the Washington Post trying to put one over on readers?

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In an effort to better engage with its online readers, the Washington Post launched a feature Monday that makes it easier for civilians to report an error to the Post’s staff writers. At least, that’s how the paper is communicating it to readers. What the Post’s new feature also does is encourage readers to report corrections in a private forum that’s behind an opaque wall rather than on a comments board that’s visible to all. And, though the new system will indeed make it easier for the Post’s staffers to respond to user-submitted corrections, it doesn’t really foster reader engagement; it just makes it easier for them to ignore the comments on their articles.

If the folks at the Post really are pure of heart, perhaps they should heed the suggestion from Scott Rosenberg. From PBS’s MediaShift IdeaLab blog:


Make the whole process public. The ultimate purpose for a newsroom to open an error-reporting channel is to restore public trust in the process of verification underlying the news report. To earn maximum trust, the channel ought to be transparent: It should be clear to the public whether the news organization is responding appropriately to reasonable feedback. Placing those responses out in the open, in turn, can help defend the newsroom when it becomes the target of unfair or irresponsible critics. Such transparency creates a kind of bedrock of trust, and it’s one of the motivating principles behind MediaBugs. Whether a news organization partners with a neutral organization like ours or prefers to handle the process by itself, conducting the exchange openly keeps everyone more honest.


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