Correct the first time
Contrary to popular opinion, we journalists do try to get our facts straight before we go to press. Spellings, ages, biographical details… these things matter, and not just to the interviewees and their mums, but to the wider world too.
It’s particularly important on a paper like The Times, which is still seen by many as a trusted source, as the “paper of record”. Any error is liable to be repeated ad infinitum as journalists do what journalists do best, ie rip off someone else’s story and pass it off as their own. It doesn’t take long before that sloppy error is recast as fact in a dozen more features.
So it’s important we put things right when we can. Serious wrong-doing is regulated the Press Complaints Commission, but minor things like a wrong phone number, an incorrect age, etc, etc are best dealt with by a quick and polite request to the writer. It will be too late for print edition, obviously, but we can always make corrections online.
But don’t mistake a willingness to correct factual errors with a willingness to “refresh” our back catalogue. I’ve had a requests recently from PRs asking that I update the images accompanying a restaurant review we ran a year ago to reflect the recent revamp, to include mention of the new drinks menu, or to add a reference to the new line of supermarket meals the chef has just launched…
No, no and no. We are not on retainers as part of your publicity machine. We don’t offer free upgrades during a warranty period. We publish and we move on. And so should you.