When and how should publication errors be corrected?
A day or so after the 1948 presidential election, newspapers across the country ran the photo of a happy President-elect Harry S. Truman holding a copy of the Chicago Daily Tribune with its banner headline: “Dewey Defeats Truman.”
As journalism historians tell us, red-faced Chicago newspaper editors ran a retraction, but not without placing at least part of the blame for the publication error on pollsters with their “crystal balls” and “alleged science.” (One wonders what the editors would have thought of today’s market research.)
While most of us responsible for corporate publications haven’t made a boo-boo of this magnitude, I’m sure we’ve all let a few mistakes slip into print. Once discovered, editors can pass through the psychological stages often accompanying great tragedies, including denial (I didn’t do that … did I?), anger (Oh, expletive!) and depression (Where’s my resume?).
Ultimately, corporate editors, just like those at the Daily Tribune, must face the final stage: publishing a correction.