Could Newspapers Adopt 'Total Quality Management?'

In a post yesterday headlined Rarely Regretting the Errors, I discussed new research showing that the newspaper industry only corrects about 2 percent of the actual errors that make it into print, and wondered why newspapers don't implement one of the many "quality management" methods other industries use to reduce errors and improve quality, such as management guru W. Edwards Deming's Total Quality Management.

Craig Silverman, editor of and a Montreal-based columnist for Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper, emails:

I saw your post about applying quality control to newsrooms and wanted to follow up because I looked into the possibility of this for my upcoming book. The short answer, after talking with a few quality experts in the US, is that it can be done. There are already quality control practices used for technical documentation, and the process-oriented nature of print newsrooms (copy is written, then passed form editor to editor and then to production) is well-suited to applying quality principles. I'm not aware of any news organization that has worked to apply quality control principles to its operations, but I agree wholeheartedly that it can should be done. I think it could have a demonstrable effect on accuracy and the overall quality of reporting. So I'm really glad to see you raise the idea.

Also, if you're looking for an example of the errors and corrections blog you mention, I suggest you take a look at what Reuters has done with its Good, Bad & Ugly blog:

They don't post every error, but I think it's a great project.

Silverman's forthcoming book, Regret the Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute the Press and Imperil Free Speech, is scheduled to be published November 1 by Union Square Press.

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