ERRORS AND CORRECTION NOTICES IN THE NEWSPAPER BUSINESS
Nobody likes making mistakes; but for journalists, the consequences can be nothing short of disastrous, ranging from mild ribbing in the newsroom to outright mockery at the local watering hole - not to mention other consequences, of course, such as innocent people having their good names tarnished and such. In any event, mistakes are things that most editors try to avoid. Still, they happen, and when they do, newspapers are quick to publish corrections. Aren't they? Not so much, according to "Accuracy Matters: A Cross-Market Assessment of Newspaper Error and Credibility" (Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, autumn 2005). The study, conducted by Scott R. Maier, an associate professor at the University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communication, surveyed 4,800 news sources to find out how accurately their information had been reported. The rate of inaccuracy ran from 55 to 70 percent and included factual errors, misquotations, and absence of essential information. Of these errors, a whopping 98% went uncorrected. Proponents of on-line news reporting, of course, gleefully seized upon the report. "So, this really puts into light the age old question...'how do you verify all of the content citizen journalists send in,'" gloated Leonard Brody of NowPublic.com, who went on to say, "Worse off [sic], it demonstrates [sic] how much better user generated news is at unearthing errors rather than burying them." Apparently proponents of "user generated news" don't consider errors of grammar and spelling worthy of being "unearthed." Still, the results of the study are unnerving - even if there is some concern about the methodology of the study: having sources rate the accuracy of reports. We've all witnessed too many sources swear on a Bible that they never said what a news outlet reported they said, despite the evidence of tape recorders and videos. Regardless of that, the fact is, we make too many mistakes, and often aren't vigilant enough about correcting them. Corrections needn't be painful There is no reason why corrections have to be grudging and boring. Craig Silverman is a well-respected journalist and author based in Montreal (a fellow Canadian, I'm pleased to say). His Regret the Error site is an exhaustive record of daily newspaper corrections. It's educational (no, not really) and enormous fun (definitely). The Times: In a story in yesterday's Times on the Trenton Softball Hall of Fame, Harvey Hyman was referred to as the "late" Harvey Hyman. Mr. Hyman is alive and well. The Times apologizes for the error. As Silverberg knows, a good correction can go far in mitigating even the worst mistakes, and to that end he has introduced the Ian Mayes Award for Writing Wrong, in honour of Ian Mayes, whom Silverberg calls "one of the, if not the, premier corrections artistes." "Using very few words, he often turned a simple correction into something amusing or enlightening. In the process, he made the paper's corrections more than just a recitation of error." Here's a sample of Mayes' work: In a misplaced outbreak of politeness, the Weatherwatch column, page 39, November 1, described average temperatures in Tromso and Bergen as being "0C and 3C respectfully". This year's winner is David Hummerston of the West Australian whose corrections include this masterpiece of punnery: Birdbrains: We swiftly swallowed the information supplied to us which described a photo of a bird in flight as a Rottnest Island Sparrow (The science of fine photography, page 19, August 16). As any eagle-eyed ornithologist would attest it was, of course, the much less rare Welcome Sparrow. So there's tip number one: When you make a mistake (and you will), confess it promptly and with as much humour as possible. The amount of effort you put into the wording will be worth much more to the offended party than the fact of the correction itself. Plus it gives you a shot at the Ian Mayes Award, and it's always fun to be rewarded for screwing up.
KEYS TO SUCCESSFULLY HIRING A FREELANCE WRITER
One of the things you need to figure out with your internet business is how to find time to get everything accomplished during your work week. One of the big time commitments is writing the content for your website, and articles for marketing use. Something you may want to consider is hiring a freelance writer to handle creating the content for your business. Fortunately, hiring a freelance writer is easy to accomplish, and if you understand the process up front, can be a great benefit to your business. With a little forethought and planning, the content you get will be original, professionally produced information that engages and informs your readers. Types of Content The first thing to figure out is what type of content you need. Some freelance writers specialize in specific areas like SEO articles or sales letters. They do a fantastic job with those types of assignments, but they may struggle when they are asked to produce other types of content. There are some writing skills that should be present in all writing, such as proper grammar and spelling, There are, however, some very real differences between writing to persuade, like a sales letter, and writing to educate, such as an ebook. Scope of the Job You need to decide up front what it is you are looking for. If you are interested in having an eBook written you should know whether you need the eBook as a 1550 - 200 page item you are going to sell, or whether it is a 20 page product that you are giving away. If your job posting only asks for an eBook the bids you receive will vary considerably. You will have people bidding $1,000 when all you wanted was 20 pages, or you will get bids of $50 when you really needed a much more extensive book. If you are hiring a writer to produce SEO articles, you should know how many words you need, and what keywords you want included. If you have a predetermined keyword density that you want in your articles, you need to state that upfront. Stating in the job bid the details of the project will make it much more likely that you will get appropriate bids for the job that is required. It will also avoid a lot of frustration for both you and the writer when you both understand what is expected. Cost Depending on where you go to find your writer, you will most likely see a great deal of difference in the bids that you receive for your writing job. If you posted a job for 10 SEO articles, you could see bids anywhere from $20 to $200. While it is not always the case that you get what you pay for, many times there is a lot of truth to that statement. While the amount bid is not necessarily an indicator of quality, an extremely low bid should cause you to wonder why it is so low. There are some reasons that some bids are lower than others. The first is experience. Many freelancers will get their businesses jump-started by working for a lower wage. This ensures that they get more work, and can build their experience and references. As they gain that experience and improve their skills they begin to demand a hire price for their services. Another reason that some bids are lower is the geographic location of the writer. Some parts of the world have a lower cost of living, so writers in those areas can afford to work for less than the prevailing rate. One thing you need to do is make sure that you see a sample of the freelancers writing so you can see the quality of their work. Regardless of the claims they make in their job bid, or on their resume, the proof is the actual articles and content that they produce. Take the time to read some of what they have written. That way you will have a better idea of what they are capable of.