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Ashland Daily Tidings Error Audit Report

March 2004

Method

Independent editors analyzed each issue of the Ashland — Daily Tidings for the first four weeks of March for errors. In all, the — Tidings published 281 pages of news content (including sports, business, — backpage and faith, but not including weather/comics or classifieds). — The results were categorized into six categories of errors:

o Typos. These are obvious errors of a typist, either — an editor on the page or a writer error that eluded editing.

o AP. These are basic errors of AP style, as determined — by the AP stylebook.

o Style. These are errors of design and layout style, — as determined by the staff during its November redesign.

o Facts. These are errors of fact that call for a correction.

o Set up. These are production errors related to items — that are produced in pre-press or another department outside of news.

o Grammar. these are errors of English, including but — not limited to, spelling, capitalization, verb agreement, tense agreement, — commas and hyphens.

The categorization of each error requires some subjective — determination.

Results

Over the course of four weeks, five different editors — produced 281 pages, with a total of 656 errors, or 2.33 errors per page. — While comparison to other newspapers is never completely accurate, some — context is needed for a full understanding of these results. The Chicago — Sun-Times produced a standard for error audits in the 1990s. Its initial — results found that the esteemed paper made more than four errors per page. — The paper then implemented several changes in the newsroom that cut the — errors by nearly half over the coming months. The Daily News Record, in — Harrisonburg, Va., conducted its own error audit in November of 2002. — The 30,000-plus circulation six-day a week daily discovered more than — five errors per page.

For further context, a review of a smattering of Ashland — Daily Tidings newspapers printed in December and January, found as many — as six errors per page. In the end of January at the annual staff retreat, — the newsroom staff instituted immediate changes designed to reduce errors. — The result of those changes appears to have significantly reduced the — amount of errors in just two months.

That said, the purpose of this March audit is to establish — a baseline for the Ashland Daily Tidings. A second audit will take place — in October, after suggestions for improvement based on these results are — implemented, and goals for the reduction of errors are set.

The purpose of any successful error audit is not to eliminate — all errors, but to identity specific areas where improved systems or education — can reduce the most errors. After reviewing the error results, three specific — areas call for immediate improvement.

Goals

1) Grammar: Errors of basic grammar rules account for — more than half of all errors committed during the month of March (57 percent). — A review of the more than 370 grammar errors reveals two different types — of errors: Poor editing of submitted copy, most notably letters to the — editor and community notes; and poor understanding of capitalization and — punctuation rules, most notably commas and hyphens. A third common mistake, — though not as prevalent as these includes verb and tense agreement.

Action for improvement: We will do some internal review — and training through September.

2) The Valley page: Though accounting for roughly 8 percent — of the total number of pages, the Valley pages contributed more than one-fourth — of the total number of errors. These errors include typos (26 percent — of all typos were made on the Valley page), errors of AP style (a whopping — 43 percent) and grammar mistakes (26 percent). While the actual number — of these errors committed in the community notes section is not documented, — even a cursory review of the pages suggests that a vast majority, likely — 90 percent or more, are a result of errors in the community notes. This — is simply shoddy editing of submitted copy. A similar review of the opinion — page shows most of the errors are found in the letters to the editor, — again submitted copy.

Action for improvement: A new deadline for editing submitted — copy by the close of business for the next day's pages will be instituted. — Part of the daily responsibilities of each editor will be to read both — community notes and letters to the editor. The deadline for the Valley — page is already 10 a.m. and will remain, but editing of community notes — word for word after it's on the page will become a part of the page editing — responsibilities. This should lead to at least two, or more, editors reviewing — the submitted text. Additionally, one day a week, each reporter will take — a turn editing a number of community notes and letters to the editor. — This will help get an extra edit of the submitted copy, but it will also — sharpen the reporters' knowledge of grammar and AP style.

3) Front page. Errors on the front page have greatly been — reduced since the staff retreat in January. But with 111 errors on 24 — front pages, clearly the number of embarrassing errors which contribute — to a loss of credibility among readers is still too many. The front page — is our showplace, and any errors are too many. The stakes are higher on — the front page, and the damage to our credibility is greater. However, — the front page is often the last page produced, with the most deadline — pressure. It also contains the most locally produced copy and design, — and with it, the possibility of more errors. Improving the number of errors — on the front page is not easy.

Action for improvement: Much of the system and procedural — changes implemented in February were designed with the front page in mind. — However, implementation of those goals can be sporadic. A higher level — of consistency of the procedures already in place can bring even further — improvement to the front page. These include a deadline for the front — page of 15 minutes before the final page deadline, except for in the case — of a late breaking news story, three printouts to proof, copy editing — stories in the afternoon and early morning and spell checking the document — prior to sending it to pre-press. Each of these is already part of the — Ashland Daily Tidings editing procedures, but each can be implemented — with greater fervor and consistency.

4) Mondays and Wednesdays: These two days of the week — are typically the highest in errors. While the audit doesn't reveal it — directly, experience suggests a reasonable explanation. Monday is the — only day when only one editor is working on a day that is very demanding — in terms of design. On Wednesdays, attention is diverted from the daily — to finish the production of Revels. Both situations reveal the need for — additional staff support.

Action for improvement: Until such time as an additional — copy editor can be hired, reporters must do their best to pay careful — attention on these days and make themselves available for copy editing — and page checking. To the credit of the staff, everyone willingly pitches — in on checking pages, including the photographer and sports editor.

Accolades

While an error audit, by definition, focuses on what we — are doing wrong, the audit also revealed several areas of strengths and — improvements.

The effort of the entire staff to pay greater attention — to the elimination of errors is evident, not just in this error audit, — but in the day-to-day activities of the newsroom. Only with a staff that — is as dedicated and mature as this one, can such dramatic improvements — be made. Should similar improvements be evidenced in the October's audit, — the excellence of the paper will likely hit a level it has not seen in — many, many years.

Andrew Scot Bolsinger

Editor