Year-end stats show York Daily Record is getting it right more often
In an earlier blog post about the foundational values of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, Editor Jim McClure showed that accuracy is a prime target for us. Among our 14 Core Operating Competencies, accuracy stands clear and tall.
Here’s how we describe the goal:
We strive for 100 percent accuracy. When we fall short, we do not make more than one correctable error for every two days we publish in print. We use the spell-checker at least twice on every story. We follow our digital and print style and ethics policies, which include clearly marking corrections on all platforms in a consistent style.
Throughout each week, I tally up the corrections we published on page 2A. I make sure that we walk every error back to its source of origin. We do this not to establish blame, but to ensure that everyone involved understands what went wrong and what can be done to prevent a recurrence.
This is a fast-paced, somewhat sloppy business. But deadlines and distractions are no excuse for errors. Readers count on us to get it right. In many ways, accuracy is our commodity.
If we do make a mistake, however, it is important to acknowledge the error and make good on it.
So our goal has been no more than one correction every two days, for a rate of 0.50 corrections per day. It might seem compulsive to break it down like this, but check out how that stats tracking has helped us over time.
We started recording these stats in 1991. That year, we published a correction, on average, at least once a day. You can’t build much credibility when readers are reminded on a daily basis about your mistakes. We worked hard to focus and get it right, and in 1992, we brought the rate down to 0.84. We have been on an improving trend line ever since.
Today, I tallied up the numbers for all of 2011 and was pleased to see that we set a new record. Just 0.335 corrections per day. And this is the third year in a row that we kept the rate below 0.40.
Many things go into keeping that number low. But one of the strangest is how the never-ending demands of our online audience for immediate news has actually made us better in print.
We used to post stories online only after they were cleared for print production. Now, however, we share information as soon as we can. “When we know, you know it,” is the slogan to follow. And when that happens, errors can find their way online.
Readers tend to let us know right away if a mistake has been posted, and we correct errors online as soon as we become aware of them. This means that instead of a couple of editors on a story, we might have dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of people reading a story before it gets in the paper. This group effort often results in more accurate and complete stories in print and, ultimately, online.
(By the way, check out our new tool for reporting errors in stories. The FactCheck tool is now at the bottom of every article and affords you the chance to let us know directly if an error has been made.)
Look at the list below and watch how the corrections rate has dropped steadily since we launched our website in 1996. Around 2004, we started to focus on immediacy online. Remarkably, that helped us break a plateau, and we improved every year since ’05.
My thanks and congratulations go out to everyone in our newsroom. Such precision is hard to come by and even harder to sustain. I think we have found a new – and better – normal.