As a journalist, I hate making mistakes. I do my best to make sure none ever get in print, but sometimes it happens.
Most recently it happened with the article, ”City Chicks,” written with David Reed published in the Columbia Business Times. Despite everyone’s best efforts, the name of a source, Mary Stilwell, was misspelled in some instances.
As regretable as this mistake is, however, the most important things are to acknowledge mistakes do happen and to note what I do to make sure mistakes are kept to a minimum.
For starters, I practice something I learned at the University of Missouri-Columbia — accuracy checking. This involves asking a source if she or he would like to review the article and/or their quotes before the article goes to print.
I figure if I’m afraid to let a source read an article before it goes to print, maybe I’m not as confident in my facts as I should be.
Of course, sometimes this process can go awry, such as when a source decides to try to edit the work, beyond checking it for accuracy. This is rare, but when it happens, I ask the person if the information is accurate. If the answer is yes, we may discuss the other changes requested, but the main focus for me is on accuracy.
Sometimes, despite my best efforts and those of others, a mistake will slip through. When it does, I am comforted to know that everyone makes mistakes — even the illustrious New York Times. For example, on April 20, 2010, the newspaper published six corrections for its A section. I am sure every single one of those New York Times reporters were cringing that morning.
I also remember what I used to tell my journalism students back when I taught at MU — the good news and the bad news about journalism is we get to try to do it again only better with the next article.
Finally, I apologize to the source, in this case Mary Stilwell.
So, as noted, it’s time to get back to work on that next article — after I apologize to Mary Stilwell.