Thursday, October 20, 2011

Owning up

Every morning on my drive to work I listen to NPR, I do this because I like the coverage and generally enjoy the way the information is presented, also because this is the closest to informed I get. This morning they did something that they have to do every once in a while, I actually enjoy the way they do this. Apparently they made a mistake in a story in the last few days and so they had to correct the statement. To do this they employed a common journalistic tool; a retraction. Now when most media outlets are forced to retract a statement bury it on their website, or deep in a following issue, or in some other way that makes it very nearly impossible to find unless you are looking for it. NPR however employs a method that I find to be rather refreshing.

This is how it works

“on this date we aired a story about this subject and said something that was incorrect, the correct fact is this. We regret the error”

The do this during their normal broadcast on the air where every one can hear tucked neatly between the news of the day. What I find pleasant about this is really two things, the first is that they are not trying to hide the mistake. In this I mean they freely admit that they made a mistake, and are stating that where every one can see and hear it. It is an acknowledgement that they are human and there for capable of making mistakes, even if as journalists they hold them selves to a higher standard. As well as a promise to try to do better. There is no excuses, no attempts to pass the blame to bad information, and no attempt to hide the mistake, it all seems very adult.

I would like to see this sort of thing adopted by society as a whole. Most people when they make a mistake try to pass the blame off to some external factor, no one owns their mistakes any more. Even when they are confronted they are more likely to offer an excuse rather than admit to the mistake. I catch myself doing this from time to time as well, though I try to own my mistakes.

Owning a mistake means a bit more than simply saying “I made a mistake” any one can do that, and a lot of people seem to think that excuses them from responsibility. When you own a mistake you do more than simply say “I messed up” you do what NPR did, which is say, I made a mistake, I'm sorry, and I will try to do better” that last part is the important part. As a human being you are flawed but you are also able to grow from experience, and a mistake is great experience. Too many people however hide from their mistakes, and when you hide from it you cannot grow.

So I have some homework for the blogosphere; the next time you make a mistake, when you learn about it I want you to in some way say the following.

“I'm sorry I made a mistake, I am going to try to do better, and here is how”

or at least some variation of this, say it to the person who pointed out your mistake, say it to your self, say it to your coffee cup, repeat it mentally, but it needs to happen. Then after you do this the next step is to follow through, try to do better, and in tying you will grow as a person. You will make a mistake again, its human nature, but the growth is really the important thing, and I feel in some way this may just improve the world just a tiny bit.

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