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Breaking the news

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Nov.24.06

While the subscribers and readers of other newspapers have had to wait until today to read the news of the SVG Air disappearance, Searchlight’s readers and subscribers have not been so starved of the news. As soon as information became available, it was moved on our website for all to read.

We also did the same with the death of Patrice Bascombe and the NOBA strike. Our readers were kept informed and updated on developments.

Another demonstration of Searchlight’s innovation with breaking news.

Regret the error

For very obvious reasons, errors are a hazard of the business in journalism. In any given day, reporters have to cover multiple assignments on multiple topics and expected to be knowledgeable enough on each subject area to converse intelligently with the newsmaker and understand the nuances of the particular discipline. They also work under pressure of deadlines as more and more news makers and organisations request their presence at news conferences, interviews, presentations, shows, competitions, rallies, and other events and some will be angry if they do not show up.{{more}}

So media bosses around the world have come to recognise that errors will happen and to accept that this is a hazard of the business – though still striving for perfection with each edition.

Unfortunately, there is a minority of individuals who would wish to crucify a journalist or media house for the slightest of errors – especially if that person is a competitor. Shameful!

As a result of the hazard of errors, media houses have now implemented a corrections policy and many newspapers carry a “corrections page” at least once a week where the errors are corrected.

For example, in the last week the New York Times page called “Corrections: For the Record” made 45 corrections. Here is a selection:

“Because of an editing error, an article on Friday about the impact of the Asian energy rush on international policies and on Myanmar named the wrong country as having Southeast Asia’s largest economy. Most major economic measurements indicate that it is Indonesia, not Thailand.”

“An article on Saturday about plans for urban expansion and development in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, gave the wrong number of members for Asean, the grouping of Southeast Asian nations. It has 10 members, not 12.”

As close as Barbados and as far away as Asia, newspapers have a corrections policy and run a corrections page.

Reuters just amended its correction policy in order to distinguish between errors that change the meaning or significance of a news item and minor mistakes that do not alter the meaning of the story.

Reuters which run a wire service is now “correcting” stories with substantive errors but only “refiling” those with minor errors.

Some hardnosed people however will want their pound of flesh and so the Press Complaints Council has been conceptualised as a faster means of forcing a media house to correct errors. The aggrieved parties have an option of going to Court but libel cases can take a very long time. The alternative is to file a complaint with the Eastern Caribbean Press Complaints Council which will swiftly examine the article and the complaint and make a ruling. All participating media in the country of publication are obligated to publishing the entire ruling of the Council in full.

Perhaps it is time that such media policies be adopted in St Vincent and the Grenadines and all the media here sign on to it so as to give the aggrieved reading public a faster option to arbitration, should that become necessary.

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