Editor’s note on why corrections matter – the perfect is the enemy of the good

The result of our work isn't revolutionary change in their reporting from the region, but significantly improved coverage.  In life, as in media monitoring, the perfect is often the enemy of the good.  

We’d like to respond to those who strongly support our work promoting accurate coverage of Israel, but sometimes question the impact of corrections.  Who notices, some have asked, the tiny blurb on page 32 of the newspaper the following day?  The damage, they assert, has already been done with the original smear, distortion or inaccuracy.  

In response to such sincere skepticism over the efficacy of CAMERA’s focus on corrections, it’s important to note that the tiny blurb in the paper is far from the only achievement.  The question of who reads that small bit in the print paper is not as important as the fact that we’ve set the record straight, and that journalists and editors are far less likely to make the same error again – sometimes motivated by professionalism, other times merely out of fear of being embarrassed again.   

UK Media Watch prompted print correction at the Daily Mail on Nov. 27, 2017.

Also of significance is the fact that most people get their news online and, when we prompt revised language to an article that originally contained a false assertion, the new accurate language is what news consumers will read when they come across the article. 

UK Media Watch prompted online correction at the Financial Times, Nov. 2, 2017

Finally, there’s the cumulative effect that our monitoring, and our prompting of corrections, has on journalists. 

Though we can’t change their personal opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the fact that they know we monitor every word they write about Israel has the effect of making their writers more careful.  In addition to the corrections we garner, those of us who monitor media outlets day after day can see the impact in other ways – in, for instance, improvements over time in the language used about Jerusalem, and in other ways which are sometimes difficult to quantify.  The Guardian’s then Readers’ Editor wearily acknowledged in 2011, in an article responding to charges of antisemitism in their coverage of Israel and clearly alluding to our criticism, that “organisations monitoring the Guardian’s coverage” studiously hold the Guardian accountable to the facts and language in their articles and op-eds.

We will continue to do so.

The result of our work isn’t revolutionary change in their reporting, but – by holding them accountable to the most fundamental professional duty to tell the truth – improved coverage.  In life, as in media monitoring, the perfect is often the enemy of the good.  

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