Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Error in Paper's Web Results Could Linger

Most famous political reporting boner of them all.
I note this morning that the local daily in Roanoke correctly has Terry McAuliffe winning the Virginia governor's race, but on the same screen, it has totals for Mark Obenchain and E.W. Jackson in their races for Attorney General and Lt. Governor, but no totals for their Democratic opponents, implying the Republicans won their races. (UPDATE: The page at 7:45 a.m. was incorrect. By 10 a.m. it had been fixed. The link to the error no longer works, so I removed it.)

That, of course, is not true (as of 7:45). Ralph Northam is the new Lt. Governor and Mark Herring has the lead in the Attorney General's race by a handful of votes. A runoff will likely be necessary in the Herring-Obenchain race, but the absentee ballots have not been counted yet, so anything could happen.

The point, however, is that media--especially in November, 2013--needs to get it right on its website. My guess is--and I haven't seen the paper version of the paper--that it got everything right up until it went to press. But a huge chunk of us no longer subscribe to the hard copy and we get our news from the web. I got my election news from the state election board (here). That's where media gets its state and local results. It's up to date and it's official, whether or not it's right.

What the daily is reporting on the web are Obenchain's and Jackson's vote totals, but not the vote totals of the Democrats, leaving the impression that the Repubs won. I hesitate to throw stones in this glass house today, as one who got cut by glass the last time I did that. Still, an error like this in a race this close, carrying this much importance will resonate for a long time.

The high profile of the web--and its permanence--is undeniable and it is growing. The web is where emphasis must be placed by media wishing to survive in a climate that is dismissing publications almost daily.

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