Friday, 29 July 2016

How mistakes can be the greatest truth

When writing a political or analytical piece online, occasionally and at strategic times include at the bottom of the story a small addendum pointing out a correction. It should be dated perhaps a day after the story was released, the word “correction” and the date should be in bold and the correction itself should be written in italics.

The correction should be minor, such as the age of a quoted person, city, their title, a date, etc. Perhaps these minor mistakes can be purposefully introduced to a story before it is published in order to manufacture the correction later. However, corrections with major impact should be avoided and not manufactured.

The strategy is threefold: it shows the paper is dedicated to discovering the truth, and will respond to constructive criticism. It shows reader engagement with the article (it looks like someone outside the paper's staff had to read it to see the mistake). And most importantly, it tricks the reader into thinking the paper is so dedicated to finding mistakes that if it picked up this tiny detail, then all the other assertions and details in the article must be correct.

What effect would this have? No one at the paper needs to say the media is dedicated to truth, that assumption is now made by the reader. This is crucial, because if you have to say something, it’s not true. It must appear in the reader’s mind as if they thought of the conclusion themselves.

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