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Today's trust tip: If you get something wrong, explain yourself

Hi there. Joy here.

No journalist I've ever met is unbothered by inaccuracy. Depending on the type, errors can make us nauseous, embarrassed, angry or many other strong negative feelings. Sometimes, mistakes are a matter of carelessness, and sometimes they result from a reasonable process that somehow let us down.

Either way, standard practice is to correct our errors publicly and move on as quickly as possible. 

But what if there's something to be gained by lingering over the error? Even ... telling a story about it? Unfortunately, too many news consumers think journalists don't care much about getting the facts right. What are you doing to show them you take it seriously? And where could you explain how complicated your work can be? 

Take this example from the Capital Weather Gang at the Washington Post. This one stuck out to me for two reasons.

1. I happened to be on a Segway in DC during this unexpected downpour.
2. The response to this public mea culpa was overwhelmingly positive.

This tweet, signed by a staff member, was published Wednesday evening. Before the staff had a chance to look at what went wrong, they were already acknowledging that they'd messed up.

Then Thursday, they came back with a full story explanation. 

Here's part of the story:

When they tweeted this explanation, they got responses like these:

When readers compliment transparency, our Trusting News hearts go pitter patter. Humility goes a long way. 

TRY THIS: When you get something wrong, think about the reasons behind the error. If the contributing factors are at all interesting, consider spelling that out for your users. It can be as simple as writing one or two extra sentences in your correction explaining how information changed, why a usually trustworthy source let you down or what led you to misspeak. Be sure to include how you feel about having messed up and what you'll do differently, if anything, in the future.

— Joy Mayer, Trusting News director

Are you ready for free one-on-one advice to talk about how you could better explain and get credit for your work? Request a chat here.  

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Trusting News aims to demystify trust in news and empower journalists to take responsibility for actively demonstrating credibility and earning trust. It is a project of the Reynolds Journalism Institute and the American Press Institute

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