What the New York Times Taught Us About Humility

If every major business entity had the dedication to excellence, accuracy, and customer service that The New York Times displayed a few days ago, the entrepreneurial world would be a much, much better place.

The basic gist of the story goes like this: 12 Years a Slave — the Oscar-winning Best Picture of 2014 — caught the attention of science writer and best-selling author Rebecca Skloot. Skloot did some digging, and found an article from 1853, published by The Times, about Solomon Northup, the subject of 12 Years a Slave. In the original article, Northup’s name had been misspelled not once, but twice, and Skloot called them out on the error, using Twitter as her platform.

One of Skloot's original tweets about the inconsistency.
One of Skloot’s original tweets about the inconsistency.

And here’s what The Times did: they didn’t ignore her. They didn’t defend themselves. They didn’t get upset, and they didn’t delete the original article in order to save face. What they did was much more difficult (and much more awesome) — they listened, they admitted they were wrong, and they fixed it.

They weren’t afraid of how they would look to the world by admitting their mistake. They were more concerned with the honor of the story and the man it was written about. Furthermore, they were willing to collaborate and communicate with Skloot, via Twitter, in order to right the wrong.

In an age when people have been replaced by computers, and interfacing has been replaced by automated surveys, humility (and at the same time, chutzpah) like the Times’ are rare.

For this, we applaud the Times, and all agencies that operate by the same standards. Sweb Development is one of them. Are you?

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