The Washington Post made a huge statement yesterday about the accuracy of its reporting, engaging with its audience and building a stronger relationship of trust with its readers.
A link to this page – asking readers and sources to bring errors to editors’ attention – now appears on every online story the paper publishes.
We launched something similar – a “Fact Check” box on every story page on RegisterCitizen.Com – earlier this year.
The Washington Post goes much further, and hits all the right notes in seeking to engage with and learn from its audience. In addition to asking for a simple report on mistakes in a story, its form also asks, “What do we need to know to improve future stories on this topic?” It suggests that readers suggest “additional people to speak with, areas to explore, etc.”
The Washington Post corrections/fact check page even has a “yes/no” opt-in to the question, “Would you be willing to help with other stories?”, suggesting that the paper is building a foundation for future crowdsourcing efforts, perhaps by specific topic.
This is a huge symbolic shift, I hope, away from the “fortress journalism” that traditional media has clung to even as the web and social media have completely changed the audience dynamic out from under them.
And the fact that it comes from a Top 5 major American newspaper that has been criticized strongly for allowing “the print guys” to win must offer a glimmer of hope to new media thought leaders such as Jay Rosen, Craig Silverman and Craig Newmark, who have been beating the drum on fact checking and corrections for some time.