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Editorial: Correcting mistakes

Friday, September 24, 2004

In the wake of Dan Rather's apology for relying on fake documents in a report on CBS's "60 Minutes II," there are lessons that should be taken to heart.

One of those lessons is for the news media. News gatherers for newspapers, TV and radio stations, magazines and the Internet face the task every day of sorting through information that is found to be reliable and information that is too questionable to be passed on to readers and viewers.

Along the way, mistakes are made. Responsible journalists who make these mistakes also make every effort to preserve their credibility by quickly and adequately acknowledging and correcting any errors in fact.

Indeed, most news organizations take steps to correct errors long before the consumers of news know a mistake has been made. The Southeast Missourian's policy is to correct any factual error as soon as possible. Most of those errors are spotted internally. Other errors are brought to our attention by alert readers. We welcome every opportunity to correct inaccurate information.

Another lesson is for consumers of news, who soon learn which sources of information are reliable. In many instances these judgments are based on the willingness of news organizations to say they have made a mistake and now want to provide factually sound information. Consumers of news also serve an important role in the gathering and dissemination of news by calling attention to factual errors. It is through this process that the public has access to the most reliable information.

No pleasure is comparable to the standing upon the vantage-ground of truth. -- Francis Bacon


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