Inside LINK: What happens when we mess up?

Lacy Starling
Lacy Starling
Lacy is the president and CEO of LINK nky. Email her at [email protected]

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Inside LINK is a weekly column from our CEO, Lacy Starling. If you have questions you’d like Lacy to answer, email her at [email protected].

In the news, getting things right is the most important part of our job. From big concepts to tiny details, it is critical that we fact-check, spell-check, and cross-check everything we publish.

Everyone talks about how low trust in media is these days. (The good news is, it’s higher for local journalism than national news outlets.) As much as it pains me to see these numbers, I understand that in order to rebuild that trust, our readers/viewers/listeners have to believe that we at LINK are committed to getting it right, every time.

And when we don’t—because we are humans, and humans make mistakes—we need to take swift, transparent action to correct ourselves.

In the old days of print newspapers, a mistake lived forever on the page. You had to issue a correction in a specific section of the next edition, and hope that people who saw the wrong information on the first day would see the correction the second day. It was an imperfect system, but certainly better than ignoring a mistake.

However, in the digital age, two things are true: It is both easier to hide mistakes and easier to make your corrections obvious.

With near-instantaneous updates possible, we could very easily pretend like we never made a mistake. Someone could see a misspelling, a wrong title, or a factual error, hop into our content management system and correct it without saying anything further. The mistake would be gone, sure, but so would the ability of our readers to trust that we were being transparent when we screwed up.

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The beauty of digital, though, for organizations committed to transparency, is that instead of having corrections on the corner of an inside page of the next print edition, we can make it obvious online where we’ve messed up, and flag the correction in the text as well.

And that’s what we do. Our official corrections policy is this: LINK Media strives to correct all errors of fact. If you’ve seen an error in our pages, let us know at [email protected]. All concerns will be considered by our reporting team in consultation with the editor(s) involved. When an error is found, we aim to correct it quickly and transparently.

In practice, that looks like this. In that linked story, we originally only highlighted three of the five NKY residents chosen to participate in Leadership KY. Once we were alerted to the fact that there were more people from NKY we should have mentioned, we updated the story, and put a paragraph at the top letting everyone know what we’d done, and that we’d fixed it.

We also re-posted the story to our social media channels and called out the fact that we’d missed some folks the first time around. We were quick to fix our error, and transparent about it. And that’s our commitment—every time we mess up, we’ll fix it, and we won’t hide that we messed up.

None of us is perfect, no matter what our moms might say. We certainly try, but perfection simply isn’t possible. (Excellence is, which is a topic for another day.)

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It is better for us to acknowledge that we are going to make (hopefully rare) mistakes, and have a plan for how to correct ourselves, than to pretend we’re perfect and hide the times when we aren’t. Our readers deserve that level of transparency, and they require it if they are going trust us.

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