Correcting Errors – Improving Media Accuracy

October 4, 2011


Have you ever read a newspaper or seen something on the TV news that you knew was just not right factually (not to be confused with a reporter’s criticism, characterization or tone)?
Well, contrary to most beliefs, the vast majority of reporters base their professional credibility on continuously distributing reliable information to the public.   Reporters are just like the rest us and are known to make the occasional mistake, and will welcome the opportunity to correct it.    If you happen to notice incorrect information, don’t hesitate to reach out   to the reporter as soon as possible to alert them of the issue and offer your assistance in providing the correct information. 

Numbers, dates, monetary r amounts, site dimensions and contract specifications are all black and white.  If those items are published incorrectly, a brief, polite phone call to the editor or the reporter alerting them to the mistake and providing them the correct information is all that is necessary.  This small action will not only protect your section or branch but it will also be appreciated by the reporter/ editor since their publications and professional reputations are at stake.  

Incorrect attribution, however, is another story.  Statements or facts that did not come from you or your Section or Branch should be corrected.  Again, a brief and polite phone call to the editor or reporter requesting a correction is your first step.  If, however, the incorrect information has a detrimental effect, another option is to send a formal letter requesting a correction or retraction.
If you have any doubts or questions, please don’t hesitate to contact ASCE’s communications department in Reston, Virginia at 703-295-6404.

Have you ever had a situation where a reporter misquoted you or reported incorrect information that was attributed to you?

Audrey Caldwell – Manager, Corporate Communications

1 Comment
  • I have e-mailed reporters or just newspapers or TV stations on multiple occasions when I have heard information which I believe or know to be not correct. In all cases I have either had that correction noted or I have learned a distinction to what was reported or I have learned new information, typically from other sources than the report that I was questioning.

    More of the issue to me is selective editing of quotes or video footage that implies something that was not stated.

    Much more of the issue to me is elected officials making statements that are not correct:

    In the past year, news related to increased funding for infrastructure included “to keep another bridge from failing due to neglected maintenance” – not an actual quote but this was the point of statements. These news items were in reference to statements by an elected official.

    I made several attempts to contact US DOT to learn about bridges that had failed due to a lack of maintenance. The replies were at follows:

    1) US DOT – contact FHWA, FHWA reply, “that is not information that is collected”
    2) That is a state issue, contact the state DOTs
    3) no reply to third request

    I am not aware of any bridge that has failed due to neglected maintenance.

    I am aware of bridges that have failed due to design mistakes, construction loadings, weather impacts (wind, hurricanes, floods, scouring/erosion). I am also aware that bridges have been closed for lack of maintenance or as is currently the case with the I 64 bridge over the Ohio River in Southern Indiana to Louisville, Kentucky, due to concerns raised during inspections.

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