IN THIS TOGETHER: Looking in the right places
You’ll find it on the second page, toward the bottom, in a little box. “Corrections & Amplifications” it says. It tells you more than you might at first think.
The Wall Street Journal, like all other publications worth their salt, wants their readers to have accurate information, so if they make mistakes, they fix them. Here’s what was in the little box on Jan. 26, 2021: “Obe Ata soup was misspelled as Obe Ate in an Off Duty article Saturday about African recipes.”
There had to be 60 articles in that particular edition of the daily newspaper. Some of them were about politics, some were about businesses, some were about people. Like every other edition, there would have been international news, opinion pieces and even some sports. Some were really long. And if the only thing they got wrong is one letter in the name of a soup dish, it speaks rather well for the Wall Street Journal.
Not every day is the box that small. On Jan. 16, there were five “corrections & amplifications.” Two were also about misspellings – this time on the names of actors. Two were in photo captions, which meant it probably wasn’t the person with the by-line who was responsible. One caption had said Capitol Police were “standing at attention” during the funeral procession for their colleague, when, according to the notice, it should have said they were “saluting.” The other caption needed fixing in this way: “A front-end loader in floodwaters from the Snoqualmie River was misidentified as a bulldozer …”
The little box also included a correction on a reference to someone who was said to be from Chester, PA, when in fact that person had retired from the Chester, PA, fire department but was from Boothwyn, PA. We absolutely had to know that, not because we care whether someone was from Chester or served in its fire department, but to appreciate how careful a reporter has to be in absolutely every reference.
Those kinds of corrections do two things for me.
First, they make me glad to know I’m not the only one who makes mistakes.
Second, they impress me with a confidence that newspapers care about the facts.
We’ve been told otherwise over the last four years.We’ve been told the news is fake. It is not. If respectable news outlets get something wrong, they are called on it and they fix it.
Can there be bias in news? Yes. Even when there are facts, there can be bias.
The same newspaper had two articles on Jan. 21 that referenced the fact that Trump didn’t attend his successor’s inauguration. One of the articles said he “became the first president to skip his successor’s inauguration in 150 years.” The other said he “became one of only a handful of presidents to skip his successor’s inauguration.” Both are true.
One makes it sound worse than the other. And it was worse. But we’re glad he wasn’t there anyway.
Which brings us to us. What is our responsibility in all of this?
Our responsibility is to seek truth, whether by reading or watching. Yes, we must watch for bias, but we can find truth from sources that honor their responsibility to the public and tell us only what they can confirm and make corrections when they are wrong. Even if it’s just the difference between a front-end loader and a bulldozer. There are many outlets that qualify. There are many that don’t.
Here is a hint: If we are reading from a source that says the pandemic is a hoax when all other evidence including overflowing mortuaries proves otherwise, we are not being well served. If we are listening to a source that says the election was fraudulent when legislators and governors and attorneys general and judges report that it wasn’t, we need to find a new source. We need the truth because we’re the ones who vote. And protest. And serve. And support.
We will get it if we look in the right places.