One of Torontoist’s favourite year-end lists has just rolled in—Regret the Error’s annual compilation of the finest in media errors and corrections. From the year’s trend of “calling bullshit” (where everyone with a computer terminal has become a fact checker and comedy sketches come under the microscope), to corrections that were longer than the original article, 2009 proved to be a year ripe with media mistakes. For compiler Craig Silverman, the lesson from preparing the list is that news organizations and journalists need to find the time and effort to devise better ways of preventing mistakes. “It’s a hell of a lot of work to put this thing together every year. I’d be grateful if I didn’t have so much material to work with.”
The pool of flubs Silverman draws from may continue to grow as news organizations like the Toronto Star cut away at their copy-editing staff. He feels that the jury is out on how outsourcing will affect the Star and the rest of the industry. “We haven’t seen enough data to say whether outsourcing will degrade quality,” he says. “That said, I think there are legitimate concerns about the proposed outsourcing. In what ways will the Star‘s journalists be able to communicate with the people editing and laying out their work? Will reporters be able to proof pages to spot inserted errors? What quality control processes are going to be put in place at the outsourcing company? There are a lot of questions, and it’s going to take a concerted effort to create processes that can maintain—or improve— quality.”
The Star wasn’t among the three Toronto-based publications that made the dishonour roll this year. The honourees are: the Toronto Sun, who apologized on May 8 for implying that a Keswick mother felt her son was stupid; Financial Post Magazine, for tearing out a page from every copy of its April issue after Manulife complained about a “serious error” that had been printed; and Metro, for…let’s just say they let their boo-boo hang out.