Detroit Free Press accuracy checklists
By John X. Miller
Detroit Free Press public editor
The Free Press has focused on trying to eliminate the most troublesome and recurrent
errors, such as misidentifications, misspellings and errors with numbers (phone numbers,
addresses, math) by a continuing focus on accuracy and the use of accuracy checklists.
These checklists are the result of work and feedback from the Free Press staff and its
accuracy and credibility committee.
We decided on what errors to target by examining the error pattern over the last couple of
years, talking with and getting buy-in from staff and experimenting with the checklists.
The goal of these accuracy checklists is to remind newsroom journalists, especially on
deadline, to verify and re-verify certain information and to help make sure stories, photos
and graphics are contextual and work together.
We designed the checklists to cover the key newsroom roles of reporter, assigning editor,
copy editor, photographer, photo editor, page designer and artist. The 8 checklists are
written in the active voice and are as concise as possible, and are made into a laminated
2-sided card that can be folded to sit atop a desk or computer, or to be cut apart for lists to
be used separately.
As far as the Free Press’ accuracy focus, accuracy and fairness are the top newsroom-
wide goals. Being accurate is one of the most important responsibilities of today’s
journalists. It’s a core value that is fundamental to all that we do. It affirms a newspaper’s
credibility, authority and accuracy. Readers expect journalists to get information right
and when we don’t get routine information correct, it has a cumulative negative affect on
Our corrections process corrects errors quickly and designates who is primarily
responsible. A correction form — sent by a person responsible for sending and receiving
them — goes to that person. They state how and why the error happened, what might
work so it doesn’t happen agai