Admit mistakes!

Clark Hoyt, the NYT’s Public Editor, has a proposal:

How about requiring a personal letter of apology from the person responsible for an error to the person whose name is misspelled?

I’m always a bit wary of proposing rules like this one: there are always exceptions, and it gets complicated, and resentments rise, and people will start bickering about who’s “the person responsible,” etc etc.

But, that said, I think it’s a great idea to suggest that journalists personally apologise to anybody they’ve misspelled. I’ve done that myself, and if I’m remotely representative, it actually makes you, as a journalist, feel much better about your mistake. (Most of the time, I’m sure, one gets a gracious reply in return; certainly I did.)

What’s more, a personal note from a journalist to someone they’re writing about is never a bad idea in any event. Few people like admitting mistakes, but when you do it, it nearly always pays dividends.

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