Quotes2Looking back, I had the balance wrong; I put too much emphasis on the negative aspects, and they were too high in my story… I made a minor change in the story to try to address that [imbalance], but it did not go far enough.

That’s a quote from NYT reporter Adam Nagourney, responding to questions from the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple in response to concerns about it’s coverage of student deaths.

The Washington Post blog entry notes that the paper officially only half-apologizes for the story (about the collapse of a balcony that took the lives of several Irish exchange students), but Nagourney’s candid analysis of the situation is what stands out the most.

It’s relatively unusual for reporters to admit to having produced flawed pieces despite the knowledge that at least some of their work could have been better. Kudos to Nagourney for having said what he really thought, going further than the official correction.

It’s especially admirable because the issue here isn’t a factual inaccuracy or a headline problem but rather something as nuanced and important as the overall balance of a piece — how it reads — and the positioning of key information in the piece — higher or lower in the piece. 

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Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.