This is our way of telling readers we don’t sweep mistakes under the rug
Many readers wonder why corrections are published on page two regardless of the page on which the article being correct appeared.
An error made in a story published on page one is typically corrected on page two. An error made in a story on page 44 is also corrected on page two. The only exceptions made are dictated by legal obligations.
But why page two corrections? It’s a convention, is the simple answer. Newspapers have a dedicated corrections page, typically page two. The main reason for this is to have all corrections in one place that readers can quickly turn to. It’s for convenience. It’s also a statement of transparency.
In the early 1970s, The New York Times, a quality newspaper others look up to, started publishing corrections on page two.
Page two is arguably one of the most important after the front page. It’s the most visible and accessible page after the front and back pages. A reader needs to only turn the front page to see the corrections. The corrections also include the email address—[email protected]—that a reader can use to report errors.
Without a dedicated corrections page, readers would have to thumb the entire newspaper to find if there is any correction. A dedicated page is a way of telling readers the newspaper doesn’t hide its mistakes under the carpet; a sign of a responsible newspaper that’s accountable to its readers, takes corrections seriously and corrects them openly.
Publishing corrections on page two is, however, criticised as not giving due prominence; that means publication of corrections with the same, or similar, prominence as the article where they appeared.
Page two corrections, critics say, is akin to lumping all errors on one page regardless of their prominence or significance. They don’t distinguish between an error that is deeply damaging and one that is of little import.
Same size and on the same page
The issue of prominence and proportionality was highlighted in a petition in the United Kingdom in 2015. It asked the government to enact a law to ensure corrections and apologies are published “the same size and on the same page(s) as the original article”. The petitioners were concerned that newspapers print dramatic front-page stories containing misleading information and untruths but correct them on page two. They argued that this was obscuring the corrections.
The British government declined to enact the petition. “This government upholds the core principle of freedom of expression, recognising the invaluable role a free press plays in our cultural and democratic life,” the government said. “We are committed to independent self-regulation of the press and do not interfere in settling press complaints, as long as the press abides by the law, particularly with regard to libel and defamation.”
In the UK, the media is self-regulated by the Independent Press Standards Organisation. IPSO adjudicates complaints against newspapers by members of the public and holds the media to account for their actions, protects individual rights and upholds high standards of journalism.
Performs a similar function
The Complaints Commission of the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) performs a similar function. It has the power to direct the media to give a correction the same prominence as that given to the information being corrected.
For example, in Dr Patrick Njoroge v Nation Media Group, the commission directed that a correction be published on the front page of the Business section of the Daily Nation, where the original article appeared.
The governor of the Central Bank of Kenya had sought a suitable and fitting correction and apology (See “Reader’s guide on why newspapers struggle to say, ‘Sorry, we goofed’—Daily Nation, Jan. 6, 2023). The Daily Nation then published a correction and apology on page two, which Dr Njoroge successfully contested was trivial and inadequate.
The page two corrections may be challenged in court for lack of due prominence. But it seems the convention of publishing errors on page two is here to stay because of its quick access, visibility and tradition.
The Public Editor is an independent news ombudsman who handles readers’ complaints on editorial matters including accuracy and journalistic standards. Email: publicedito[email protected] Call or text 0721989264