The Associated Press was widely criticized by readers for publishing a story last week under the headline “Sam Smith announces his pronouns are ‘they’ and ‘them'”. The body of the story also used male pronouns, in passages like “He added that he was ‘very nervous’ about the announcement because he cares to much about what people think…”
The AP quickly posted a correction, with the notice “This story has been corrected throughout to reflect Sam Smith’s pronouns and also corrects the year of Smith’s Grammy wins.”
This morning I noted the text under the photo still uses the masculine pronouns.
The point I made to my students was that 1) mistakes happen, and while journalists do enjoy mocking their competitors’ errors, they are all the time thinking “That easily could have been me” (and next time it probably will be) 2) the AP acted swiftly and transparently to admit the error and correct it; and 3) correcting errors takes a lot of work, and the AP has only done part of it.
From now on, I told students, when they have the chance to revise an article for credit, I’m going to ask them to append a list of corrections for any substantial reporting errors, just as professional journalists do when they revise a published story.
I told my students I’d consider it a substantial reporting error if they got the name of a source wrong (and I told them a story about one time I did that as a student journalist).
I wouldn’t expect them to post a formal correction notice if they made a simple AP Style error, like like writing “October 3rd” instead of “Oct. 3” or writing “9 in the morning” instead of “9 a.m.”. I’d still expect them to correct those errors, of course, but in this 100-level class I’m not treating those errors that seriously.
If a small error substantially affected the story (such as a copy-paste error that unintentionally misattributes a quote), I would ask them to be transparent about the correction.