What do you do when you get it completely wrong?
Peter C. Mastrosimone, editor-in-chief of the Queens Chronicle, was confronted by that uncomfortable question this week. On Monday, he wrote a story that chastised a Manhattan councilman for excluding Queens from a series of public forums about the selection of the next city council speaker.
“Queens dissed on City Council speaker meetings,” read the headline. It began:
Queens is getting the outer-borough treatment when it comes to public participation in the choice of the next City Council speaker.
A series of public forums on filling the position will be held this week “across the city,” in the words of Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan), who announced the events Nov. 18.
Well, not quite across the city. Queens and Staten Island have been left out.
Well, not quite. Turns out a forum was indeed held in Queens. So the story was wrong.
In this situation, I often see news organizations try to find a way to offer a correction that spares them a measure of embarrassment. That usually means not acknowledging that their premise was incorrect, or even removing the entire article without offering a correction.
But Mastrosimone chose instead to offer a lead in his correction that was just as blunt as the one on his original piece:
This article is wrong in its entirety. A forum was held in Queens Nov. 14. That event was announced by someone other than Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and was not referenced in his Nov. 18 announcement because it had already happened. We regret the error.
The correction sits at the top of the original piece, giving the important information right away.
It’s nice to see such a blunt admission when it’s so clearly called for, though unfortunate that it strikes me as being a somewhat rare thing for a journalist to do.