Public Editor

Placement of corrections in print - no perfect solution

Updated: 2013-07-09T18:43:42Z

I talked to two different readers this week who noted something spotted by several others last week: An editorial in the Opinion section incorrectly described the status of the “doughnut hole” in prescription drug coverage for seniors . Originally it said under the Affordable Care Act, the gap in coverage was gone. In reality, it has gotten smaller and will eventually disappear.

Fixes such as these are easy to make online. You simply correct the error, and that’s that. But in print, you obviously can’t take something back once it’s been distributed. And that’s why there is a corrections column in the A section. It almost always runs on Page A2, except in rare instances where a page design and ads force it to Page A3. I wish The Star would enact a policy forbidding it ever to move from A2, myself.

The one exception is when an error appears only in one of the tabloid editions that cover neighborhood news for only part of the metro area. If the error appears in only one of these, the correction generally runs the next week in the same book. If there’s a time-sensitive element, though, such as an incorrect price for a concert that takes place before the next book comes out, then that correction would go to the main paper as soon as possible.

It’s important to make it easy for readers to find the corrections. But one of the emailers who alerted me to the editorial’s mistake also pointed out a built-in problem: Few corrections end up getting the same prominence in play as the pieces that contained the error in the first place. That’s true in many examples, such as front-page stories, or items that appear in the Sports or Features sections.

Would it be better to dictate that corrections should appear in the same space as the stories they correct? I’m not sure that’s the right thing to do. After all, the most important thing is to make them easy to find. Here I think consistency and ease of use should be the primary concern, though I’m open to other suggestions.

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