Corrections and clarifications
Published: Sept. 1, 2011
The Washington Post always seeks to publish corrections and clarifications promptly after they come to our attention.
Reporters, producers and editors should promptly relay reports about potential corrections to originating editors or via the reader correction-request form. Corrections and clarifications to online articles should be submitted and approved via the editor correction-request form.
When a correction is made online, the story editor is responsible for alerting universal, home-page and social teams to make the necessary changes to headlines and blurbs. The change should be made within the article and the correction should also be noted at the top of the item.
Clarifications and corrections should be clear, concise and direct. They must be comprehensible to anyone who reads them, including readers who may have missed the story that is being corrected. Anyone reading the correction should be able to understand how and why the mistake has been corrected.
EXAMPLE: Earlier versions of this graphic about Donald Trump’s political donations incorrectly said that the gifts listed had been made over the past 10 years. The gifts were made over 20 years. The total for contributions to Republicans and the total for all contributions were also incorrect. This version has been corrected. Donald Trump and his companies have favored the Democratic Party in campaign contributions to state and federal candidates and parties.
Blog posts should be updated quickly and transparently to correct erroneous information. The placement of the correction should reflect the gravity of the error. Major corrections (e.g., when the headline or driving premise of the blog post is wrong) should be noted in the headline and at the top of the post as well as within the blog item.
EXAMPLE: Stevie Wonder delights, while John Boehner joins list of commencement speakers under fire “Correction: This post originally used information stating that Worcester Polytechnic Institute students planning to not attend the commencement speech given by Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson would reportedly not be allowed to return for their diplomas. Students who choose not to hear Tillerson speak will be allowed to join the ceremony once his speech is finished. The post has been updated to reflect this.”
Minor mistakes may be corrected and acknowledged within the blog post, using either strike-through text or parentheses. In many cases, commenters may alert bloggers to mistakes. When this happens, bloggers are encouraged to acknowledge the mistake and subsequent correction within the comment stream as well.
EXAMPLE: Update: A posting stated the depth of the Mariana Trench as 11,000 miles under the sea. BlogPost reader David writes, “Um, 11,000 miles below sea level? That would put the bottom of it somewhere in space above the southern Atlantic Ocean.” So either Branson is still sticking to space travel, or I stupidly mistook meters for miles. It’s actually only about seven miles below sea level. Thank you, David!
If we have sent out incorrect information in an alert, we should send out an alert informing people that the news reported in the earlier alert was wrong and give readers the accurate information.
EXAMPLE: When the report of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s death was proved false, we should have sent out an alert informing people that the news reported in the earlier alert was wrong and given readers information about her condition as best that we knew it at the time.
When we publish erroneous information on the social Web, we should correct it promptly by publishing a new status or post acknowledging the error.
EXAMPLE: Correction: *Metrobus* ridership fell 7 percent, not rail. Rail remained flat. Overall decrease is 2 percent http://wapo.st/fUhQ24 #WMATA
If it is possible to edit the original post to note the error and correct the information, this is preferred. Once the information has been corrected, the incorrect post may be deleted.
Take-down ("unpublish") requests
Because of the ease with which our published content can be searched and retrieved online, even years after publication, we are increasingly being asked to take down (or “un-publish”) articles from our Web site. Typically, these requests come from the subjects of unflattering or embarrassing news articles who claim that they are being harmed by the articles’ ongoing availability.
As a matter of editorial policy, we do not grant take-down requests. If the subject claims that the story was inaccurate, of course, we should be prepared to investigate and, if necessary, publish a correction. And there may be situations in which fairness demands an update or follow-up coverage — for example, if we reported that a person was charged with a crime but did not report that the charges were later dismissed for lack of evidence. In short, our response will be to consider whether further editorial action is warranted, but not to remove the article as though it had never been published.
Digital guidelines compiled by: Anjuman Ali, Milton R. Coleman, Jon DeNunzio, Jane Elizabeth, Sara K. Goo, Cory Haik, Peter Perl , Mitch Rubin and Amanda Zamora. Additional newsroom contributors: Justin Bank, Melissa Bell, James Buck, Chris Cillizza, Tim Curran, Anne Ferguson-Rohrer, Jonathan Forsythe, Jenna Johnson, Marisa Katz, Nancy Kerr, Christine Ledbetter, Jesse Lewis, Steve Reiss, Eric Rich, Katie Rogers, Dan Steinberg, Dee Swann, Scott Vance and Katharine Zaleski.