Always let people know if you see mistakes on websites

Posted on October 24, 2018

 

It’s probably not a bad trait to have as an editor, but I am the sort of person where if I see something I know to be wrong, I have to let the person responsible know. Many people might see this as a pedantic and self-satisfied way of letting someone know they’re wrong, but I prefer to see it as a quest for accuracy and absolute truth.

I’m not so much talking about typos and spelling mistakes, because if I pointed all of them out when I saw them online, I would do nothing else! I’m talking more about inaccuracies and misinformation. While spelling and grammar mistakes are annoying, provided the meaning of what’s being said is clear, they are not as harmful as plain misinformation.

As a football fan, probably one of the most useful sites on the web for me is Soccerbase, run by the Racing Post. With it, you can find any result in professional football going right back to the 1800s, along with line-ups, scorers and attendances of more or less any game played in the last two or three decades. It’s a fantastic resource, but it’s not always 100% accurate.

When Iceland beat Finland 1-0 in 2016, the fact that the game was played at a neutral venue in Abu Dhabi led to confusion among some sources about who the ‘home’ and ‘away’ sides were. Soccerbase, along with the BBC, initially reported that Finland had won the game 1-0. I got in touch with both to let them know, and the BBC corrected it without replying, while a representative from the Racing Post sent me an apology for the mistake and their thanks for pointing it out.

I’ve noticed that the BBC generally doesn’t reply when you point out a mistake, but instead just corrects it. When in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup, the Beeb shared this video of Hungary’s 10-1 demolition of El Salvador in 1982, it originally described it as the World Cup’s “highest scoring game” of all time. I knew that to be wrong, and contacted the BBC to point out that Austria beat Switzerland 7-5 in 1954. After this, the description was changed to “the most amount of goals scored by one team”, which is still not a great description as things like ‘goals’ that can be counted individually should be referred to as ‘number of’ rather than ‘amount of’, but I let that one go!

So why is it important to point out these relatively minor errors? I would say because the internet is now the first place most of us go for information, and we should be able to rely on it to be accurate. Recent years have taught us the dangers of fake news online and the consequences it can have if people are misinformed, and while confusing an Iceland win with a Finland win might not be earth-shattering, it’s imperative that online authorities on football have their details right. What if someone had put a bet on that game and tore up their betting slip because they wrongly believed the result had gone against them?

What’s more, any site that considers itself an authority will be glad to be corrected on any mistake it makes. Whether it replies in person like Soccerbase, or changes it quietly and hopes nobody notices like the BBC, you can be sure that the site will be glad you got in touch.

John Murray

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.

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