Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Using our credibility assets

Last fall, I wrote in my column about how a check of all the newspaper Web sites in South Carolina found only one that clearly said getting things correct was important and gave me a way to report an error. Two others gave me links to report errors but no statement that credibility was important. In all the cases, the links were buried.

Now consider Pennsylvania's Pocono Record. It has a button at the bottom of many of its local stories that asks readers: "Did this article satisfy your expectations?" A big button lets readers give instant feedback. In a Poynter E-Media Tidbits note, Steve Yelvington says Managing Editor Bill Watson, who gets all of the feedback, reports there's no crushing workload doing that at the 20,000-circulation paper. Instead he sees it as a way to gauge readers' desires, and he can follow up with specific questions.

Some papers, such as the Washington Post, have started putting correction links (reg. req.) on their sites (though the Post still doesn't have a form or link on that page to make it easy to tell an editor something was wrong). But the question again arises: Why do so many news operations seem so averse to letting readers tell them there are problems?

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