Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The slow death of the Daily Mail's correction column

The Daily Mail's correction column is being killed off, or so the initial evidence suggests.

When announced to much fanfare by Paul Dacre back in October during the initial Leveson inquiry seminars, few knew quite what to make of the column.

Was this a sign that the paper had turned a corner, taking on the critics of its frequent lapses in accuracy? Or was this all for show, an attempt to give a thin veneer of credibility to largely unchanged practices?

We may not have the answer to that particular question, but the corrections column has been around long enough to assess how much it actually gets used. Below is the number of corrections printed per week in the Daily Mail, (as totted up using this site) since the launch of the corrections column until the end of May.

Since Christmas, a paper running six editions a week, has only printed more than five corrections across those six issues once. While the first week was characterised by a glut of corrections, the second week and all those since have been somewhat less candid by comparison.

To put it another way, in November - the first full month of the column - there were 12 editions without a corrections column. In April there were 19, and in May there were 20.

This in itself does not mean that the paper has abandoned any commitment to corrections. After all the paper could just simply be making less fewer mistakes, suggesting that the existence of the column has prompted the paper to raise its game.

Short of going through and factchecking every last line of the paper we don't really have much way of telling this. However it is worth noting that there has been no consistent decline (or increase) in the number of resolved complaints against the Daily Mail via the PCC.

Here is a graph of resolved complaints about the Daily Mail under Clause 1 of the PCC code, which deals with accuracy.

Yes complaints dropped off in February and March, but began to rise again in April and May, leaving us with no clear trend over the months in question - not that there are any particularly strong conclusions trying to measure newspaper accuracy this way.

Of course all this needs to be properly researched by someone who isn't doing it in their spare time. As it stands it raises important questions about how committed the publisher is to higher standards, which in turn has resonance with the issues currently being addressed by Lord Justice Leveson.

If any reforming zeal and commitment to higher standards displayed by a paper like the Mail shows signs of dissipating a few months down the line, can anything ever be done to make this passing enthusiasm a permanent feature of the press?

This is not to completely dismiss the Mail corrections column. The Sun, The Times, The Express, and so on don't have regular them, and The Guardian's is much further back in the paper.

While there is something laudable about having the column, the evidence that the Mail is committed to it as anything other than window dressing is so far lacking.


For some reason I can't work out how to upload the spreadsheet I worked on as a link in blogger.

If you know how please leave a comment explaining it. Also if you want a copy of what is a very crude spreadsheet, get in touch on Twitter.


shitlord idiot said...

"After all the paper could just simply be making less mistakes" - i think you mean fewer yo

Patrick Casey said...

Of course. Thanks. Now hanging my head in shame.

The Brendas Blog said...

Do you mostly write just for your site or you do this for other Internet or offline portals?