When I first attempted Operation Correct the Error, I failed. I skimmed through articles on Pluto in search of a statistical error, I was in high hopes I would catch someone incorrectly stating the facts. While there were errors (of course) made, I was not the first to find them.
My search became increasingly more difficult. This was the advanced version of eye spy, it was like trying to find Waldo in a sea of information.
I found myself searching through Poynter’s errors and corrections of 2014. I have no idea why, possibly for inspiration. Instead, I found myself landing on interesting pages about The worst journalism of 2014 via Columbia Journalism Review. Which was great, but completely off topic.
Originally, my hopes were on the fact that a larger publication will often make the most errors – just because they are producing and generating more content on a regular basis. Again, the issue with these errors is I was not the first to see them. So, I decided to narrow my search – and rather than viewing the top stories on Twitter, I went local to the Dallas Morning News. Besides the occasional minor misspelling, I was still having difficulty landing a proper correction.
So, while I struggled to find an error – I found myself researching how many errors are made regularly. I found an article on Slate titled “Reign of Error” that found “about half of the stories for which a survey was completed contained one or more errors.” According to the article, the study conducted by Professor Scott R. Maier discovered “2,615 factual errors in 1,220 stories.” That’s a lot of error. Why wasn’t I landing on anything?
I had my own incidents with attempting to clarify errors in the past. Last semester, I had worked on an article on the topic of laughter yoga and had found some confusing information on who exactly the founder of laughter yoga was. Some articles claiming Dr. Madan Kataria was the founder and others saying some other guy was the founder – however, there was more evidence leaning towards Dr. Kataria.
Maybe it was how I was looking or where, but I was unable to find a proper error to correct.
Rather, instead, I found a troubling article like “ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape.” There were no errors discovered, the only ones that were discovered were immediately corrected and noted towards the end. The only thing I questioned in the piece was – besides the professors, who else (if not mentioned) commented on the aspect of the interpretations of the Quranic texts? My reasoning being, from my knowledge and understanding, Islam condemns slavery and even notes some of the first few Muslims to have been slaves who were then freed. I mention it only because much can be misconstrued without clarification, and while this article was deeply informative in the wrongdoings and practices of ISIS – it did not provide much information, or at least from what I read of the interpretations from actual Islamic scholars. The professors mentioned were informative, but they do not mention (or at least again, it was not included) any type of references to text. My curiosity rises more to a matter of fairness, and the concept of disclosing more information or at least as much as possible to inform and remain evenhanded. Wouldn’t it make sense to ask someone who studies the religion and is considered an expert of that particular religion as well? This is a question regarding most any religion. If a group was claiming that they use a religion as their reasoning, and make references to various terms and concepts in the religion – wouldn’t it make sense to also then ask someone who is an expert on the religion itself, as well as professors of theology?
In the end, Operation Correct the Error was an incomplete on my part. I was unable to find an error to correct within the allotted time. Despite this, I did learn plenty on the topic of errors in the industry and found myself reading through articles while trying to assess the ethics behind them. Surely, there are errors made by journalists on a regular basis because in the end, journalists are people and mistakes do happen.