By Denise Tessier
It’s unusual for the Albuquerque Journal to “regret” a mistake, or even to categorize a mistake as an “error.”
So it’s unusual that a headline in this morning’s Journal would refer to its State Fair price mistake as a “Journal Error,” and that underneath that headline the Journal’s editor would be quoted using the word “regret.”
What prompted the story: Last week, the Journal’s State Fair section listed Expo New Mexico’s admission price for Tuesday (Sept. 18) as $2, rather than the regular $10. A standard “For the Record” correction ran on A2 of the Journal Saturday, which stated simply:
The 2012 New Mexico State Fair special section in Wednesday’s Journal included an incorrect admission price for Sept. 18. Regular admission prices will apply.
It was easy to predict the problem that could result.
Not everyone checks the corrections at the bottom of A2, even if they get the paper every day. The State Fair tab, however, is something people often hang onto until they go to the fair.
Apparently a lot of people saw the tab but not the correction, as today’s paper reported that Expo New Mexico ended up honoring the Journal-stated $2 fee partway through the day “in the spirit and interest of goodwill”; several fairgoers had demanded the $2 price. It’s likely many planned to go Tuesday simply because of that price. (This writer personally made a couple of calls to friends and family after reading the correction.)
In today’s story, “Fair Cuts Fees After Journal Error,” the editor explained that:
We misinterpreted a listing on the State Fair website for “Two Dollar Tuesday” as applying to the price of admission when it applied only to midway carnival discounts.
The fair had requested the correction, the story said. And it got a correction on Saturday.
What it didn’t get until today was the regret, probably prompted because, according to today’s story, the fair has also requested “some additional advertising, and publishing company officials are discussing that possibility.” Today’s story had this quote from the Journal’s editor:
While the fair made the decision to honor the incorrect price in the calendar listing, we certainly regret the error.
Many of the “For the Record” corrections in the Journal are not the Journal’s fault, and the paper is quick to point when a mistake is due to “incorrect information supplied to the Journal.” Most of these mistakes relate to times and dates for public events, and calendar listings are fraught with mistake potential.
But even when the mistakes are made in-house, it’s not Journal policy to “regret” any of them.
There was a time when newspapers, including the Journal, routinely ended corrections with the phrase, “The Journal regrets the error.” The additional line took up more space, yet seemed to convey humanness about the paper.
I remember when they stopped using the phrase, but don’t remember the specific reason behind it. Perhaps it was because the line took up space and had become routine. But sometimes routine is OK, like routinely being polite.
Perhaps it was too tricky deciding when a correction rose to the “regret” level, and too much attention might be focused on a mistake.
When “regret” gets used, it stands out – just as it did today.