Corrections and clarifications

Mistakes happen.

We’ve developed fact-checking protocols here at the Center. But when an error slips by us, the best thing we can do to keep our readers’ trust is own up to it.

Our policy is to correct stories promptly and openly. For minor errors, including spellings, we may simply fix the story and note on the page what has been corrected.

Still, some errors deserve more. Especially with those we think may influence readers’ judgment of a person, place or issue (as with a story on Gov. Jim Doyle’s travel expense reports, below), we’ll post the correction here as well as on the story itself. We want to shine a light on the change, and to help readers track our errors.

As most news outlets do, we distinguish between corrections (for mistakes) and clarifications (for vague or misleading content).

If you think we’ve made a mistake in a story, tell us!

Stories we’ve corrected or clarified:

How tort reform bill changed state law, Feb. 17, 2013. [DDET Correction]

A Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism story published on Feb. 17, 2013, describing the “tort reform” bill, Wisconsin Act 2 of 2011, contained several errors. The story incorrectly listed caps on some types of damages. It should have said that in medical malpractice lawsuits against long-term care providers, plaintiffs seeking non-economic damages, for such causes as pain and suffering, are limited to $750,000, the same limit already in place for cases against other health care providers. And punitive damages may not exceed $200,000 or double any compensatory damages recovered by the plaintiff, whichever is greater. Also, the story incorrectly said that Act 2 eliminated the state fine when the state and federal government fine a nursing home for the same violation; that passed as a separate bill in 2011.


Questions remain as state pushes ahead with rail line, July 21, 2009. [DDET Correction]

A July 21 report from the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism incorrectly said that state officials haven’t estimated how many people would ride a proposed passenger rail line between Madison and Milwaukee. Actually, a 2008 report prepared for the state Department of Transportation estimated that 188,000 passengers a year would take the trip between the two cities by 2020. An additional 155,000 passengers would take the trip between Madison and Chicago. Total ridership on all or portions of the new route is estimated to be 900,000 passengers a year by 2020.


Doyle’s travel reports deficient: Documentation lacking 145 times over two years, July 5, 2009. [DDET Correction]

A joint project between the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that appeared in the newspaper July 5, 2009 on state travel records had incorrect information on how often Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton and her staff failed to submit receipts in 2007 and 2008. Additional records provided recently by Lawton show she and her staff did not provide receipts to the state 2 percent of the time, not a third of the time as reported.

The following is an Editor’s Note published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Sept. 6, 2009, regarding the July 5 report on travel records:

Gov. Jim Doyle and his staff submitted receipts 70 percent of the time in 2007 and 2008 for travel expenses reviewed by the Journal Sentinel, newly released records show, and not 28 percent of the time as the Journal Sentinel reported nine weeks ago.

The records show Doyle and his aides submitted receipts 129 times for 185 charges reviewed by reporters. In an additional eight cases, they exceeded state spending limits without a written explanation, for a total of 64 violations of the travel policy. The Journal Sentinel — working with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and a University of Wisconsin-Madison reporting class — reported July 5 that Doyle and his staff did not follow state travel policy 145 times in 2007 and 2008.

The discrepancy was caused by misunderstandings over which records state officials provided to the newspaper, the center and the students.

The three groups were dealing with several state officials from both the governor’s office and the Department of Administration. Before publication, the newspaper thought it received final confirmation from the state that it had received all travel records and associated expenses for the governor and staff traveling with him for 2007 and 2008.

Actually, the reporting groups received an assortment of records from the state that included all of the governor’s travel expenses, as well as the expenses of some but not all staff members who traveled with the governor, and the receipts of some staff members traveling separately from the governor.

Other details in the story — such as how much was spent on limousine travel, hotel rooms and flights — were accurate.

Aides to Doyle said the policy requiring additional documentation for the eight cases when spending limits were exceeded didn’t apply because the charges were made on state credit cards. That policy is in effect only when employees pay expenses personally and seek reimbursement from the state, they said.