Columbia Journalism Review recently researched close to 700 consumer magazine Web sites and its content and discovered that:

  • Copy-editing requirements for online content was less stringent than those in print at 48 percent of the magazines.
  • Eleven percent did not copy-edit online content at all.
  • Fifty-seven percent of the magazines fact-check online content the same way they fact-check print articles,
  • 27 percent used a less stringent editing process for online content.
  • Eight percent did not fact-check online content at all.
  • Even worse: The other eight percent did not fact-check print OR online articles.

These weren’t little publications either. Twelve percent of the publications in the survey had print circulations of more than 500,000, which represents most major consumer magazines, such as Time, Wired and Redbook.

Do they think people are crazy or stupid? Or both?

We might be, but regardless of our IQs or mental state, we can read and we see misspellings and notice information that is less than accurate, to say the least. As a public relations professional, I know the information that I provide a publication and its editors on my client and/or company is accurate and has been approved by executives and usually the legal team. If I read an article I worked to place and notice a mistake, I want to believe it was an honest mistake, not that the editor just threw a story together and didn’t care if it was correct or not. This report makes me wonder. All the editors and publications I have worked with in the past have been very smart, professional and helpful. I’ve only had one publication refuse to correct a mistake. And I don’t work with that publication or read it.

My solution?

Let’s tackle this problem initially by politely calling editors and the publications they work for on fact inaccuracies and other mistakes. This includes everyone from Average Joe, to company executives, to communications professionals. If the publication is reputable, they will correct the error and you will see an increase in the content quality. This goes for print and online.

If they give you lip or don’t make a correction, then we need to reconsider working with certain editors and publications and/or reading their content. They should care about the quality of their work, and if they don’t, we shouldn’t be reading it.

We already pay for print content, and we are about to start paying for online content as well. News outlets and publications need to step it up.

See the article on the report at The New York Times, and read the actual report below.

The New York Times: Survey Finds Slack Editing on Magazine Web Sites 

See the article on the report at The New York Times, and read the actual report below.

The New York Times: Survey Finds Slack Editing on Magazine Web Sites

Columbia Journalism Review: Magazines and Their Web sites

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