Interview with Craig Silverman

Craig Silverman
Craig Silverman

Grammarist is pleased to introduce, Craig Silverman, an award-winning journalist and the founder of Regret the Error, a blog that reports on media errors and corrections, and trends regarding accuracy and verification. The blog moved to The Poynter Institute in December 2011, and he joined as Adjunct Faculty.

How did you first start blogging?

I was reading a ton of blogs back in the early 2000s and wanted to start one of my own. I was a freelance journalist at the time, and wanted to do something about the press. I tried to come up with a unique idea for a media blog that I could sustain without having to make it my new full-time job. So I hit upon the idea of focusing on media errors and corrections.

How long have you been blogging? How many followers do you have?

I launched Regret the Error in October 2004. My readers are too refined and complex to do them the disservice of applying a simple number!

You are a book writer and a blog writer- do you prefer one over the other? How is the process similar? Different?

Initially, the big difference was that my blog was just me — no editors or other contributors. But today, with Regret the Error now a part of Poynter, I have an editor and other colleagues. So it’s more of a team effort.
Being edited is always a good thing, but I think there’s also something to be said for being solely responsible for a blog. Then people know, as Dave Winer says, that the blog is the “unedited voice of a person.”
Obviously, when it comes to books, that is a very long process whereby you research and write and revise and then release something farther down the road that may or may not be updated in the coming years. A blog is immediate and iterative.

What is it about “Regret the Error” that has made it such a successful blog?

I think there are a few things that have contributed to its success. First, no one else was treating media errors, correction and accuracy as a beat. I was able to step in and develop a real niche.
Second, I approached it with the idea that this was an important topic, but I also knew that corrections and errors can be really funny. So I had fun when it was appropriate (and essential) to do so, but I also tried to identify trends and lessons and items of importance. That meant it was (hopefully) amusing and useful. That’s a good combination if you can manage it.
Finally, I’ll also note that my goal wasn’t to embarrass or bash journalists. So my criticism was aimed at being constructive. I think that made journalists embrace the site, rather than hate it.

How has blogging changed language? How we get news? How we use language?

I think the biggest change is that blogging has made it possible for more people to express themselves, and to have their writing and thoughts discovered. And as a result of that we have seem the emergence of new words and concepts (“blogroll” “fisking”). In terms of my specific beat, the use of the strikethorugh to make corrections in blog posts is a really interesting development. I have more on that here.

What do you think is your unique contribution to the English language?

Absolutely nothing :)

What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment in the world of language/grammar?

If I have to name something, I would say it’s getting journalists to write corrections that are clear and that do a better job of righting a wrong.

If you could change the way people speak or write what would you suggest?

Personally, I would like to be able to speak without saying “you know” and “uh” so frequently. I think everyone else speaks and writes beautifully!

What are the three most critical errors made most often?

I’ll answer this by sharing the 11 most common mistakes that newspapers journalists make in their reporting.
1. Misquote
2. Incorrect headline
3. Numerical error
4. Misspelling
5. Incorrect job title
6. Incorrect name
7. Incorrect location
8. Incorrect time
9. Incorrect date
10. Incorrect address
11. Incorrect age

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