Correcting News Mistakes

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Information about Correcting News Mistakes
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Published on October 5, 2007

Author: Dabby

Source: authorstream.com

Correcting News Mistakes:  Correcting News Mistakes The importance of being watchdogs of our own profession Questions to consider:  Questions to consider What is “journalistic error”? Can you give some recent examples of when a news report got the story wrong? Background:  Background Basic tenet of U.S. journalism is First Amendment Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Background:  Background Our challenge: If the government does not keep tabs on journalists, how do we keep them honest? Legal implications: Libel suits Integrity, credibility, trust of audience If publication loses credibility, audience could decrease, so ad revenue decreases If you lose credibility, you might lose your job History of incomplete, inaccurate or misleading news:  History of incomplete, inaccurate or misleading news Whig/Tory newspapers Yellow journalism Wikipedia definition: “When sensationalism triumphs over factual reporting” Term comes from late 1800s. Joseph Pulitzer’s New York Globe competed with William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal American Led to screaming headlines, overstatement of stories Focus on crime/sex/scandal Term came from “Yellow Kid” comic strip, which both ran Recent incidents:  Recent incidents 1980: Janet Cooke’s “Jimmy’s World” wins Pulitzer Prize, is found to be a fabrication 1992-1993: Dateline NBC uses incendiary devices during a demonstration to ensure that a gas tank would explode in a story on GM trucks Recent incidents:  Recent incidents 1998 Stephen Glass of The New Republic is fired after editors learn that fabricated many of his articles Boston Globe columnists Mike Barnicle and Patricia Smith are fired for fabrications CNN recants a story saying that the U.S. government had used nerve gas in Operation Tailwind Recent incidents:  Recent incidents 2003: Jayson Blair of New York Times is fired after it’s learned that he fabricated information and plagiarized in his stories 2004: CBS recants story on “60 Minutes Wednesday” because it was based on documents that could not be authenticated Questions to consider:  Questions to consider How did the errors happen? How were they caught? What were the ramifications of the errors? Types of errors:  Types of errors Incomplete reporting Bad sourcing Math/methodology errors News judgment errors Falsehoods and plagiarism Errors—Incomplete reporting:  Errors—Incomplete reporting Highlighting “sexy” part of story and missing the overall tone of the event, study, etc. Reporter leaves event early, doesn’t get complete picture Reporter does an easy story instead of an in-depth investigation Errors—Bad sourcing:  Errors—Bad sourcing Source lies Source’s information is wrong but “too good to check” Reporter doesn’t challenge information a source provides or doesn’t verify information with other sources Reporter uses poor sources Errors—Math/methodology:  Errors—Math/methodology Numbers not in context Trying to simplify complex information into sound bite Errors—News judgment:  Errors—News judgment “Important but boring” study not covered Management decides to spike story even though facts are solid Story is repeated so often, it seems worse than it is Headline overstates facts Story placement makes the story seem more than it is Reporter is used in an ad, but it is not clear that the information is part of an ad Errors—Falsehoods and plagiarism:  Errors—Falsehoods and plagiarism Reporter makes up information or uses information from other sources without crediting them Internet makes it easier to plagiarize because you can cut and paste parts of others’ stories How were errors caught?:  How were errors caught? Background check on reporter Subject of story files a lawsuit Another publication tries to follow up on story Internal review by reporter’s employer Sources in story come forward to say story is wrong Fact-checkers or other editors discover errors/plagiarism/fabrication Bloggers challenge sources if they seem wrong Ramifications of errors:  Ramifications of errors Firings Lawsuits Loss of credibility—both for reporters and for news organizations Internal investigations by news organizations Question to consider:  Question to consider What can be done to ensure that news stories are complete and accurate? Challenges in the system:  Challenges in the system Information on breaking stories changes constantly—can be a challenge to get the story right Newspapers often use “rowback” instead of correcting its stories: reporting correct information as if the newspaper had never reported incorrect information Reporters don’t like to say they got the story wrong Reporters don’t like to report on the mistakes of other reporters Ombudsman/ Reader representative:  Ombudsman/ Reader representative An independent critic of the newspaper Listens to the complaints of audience Does own investigation on stories that appear to have errors Few papers have them Example: The New York Times did not have an ombudsman until after the Jayson Blair incident Investigative reporting on the news:  Investigative reporting on the news Journalists should report on writers as tenaciously as government, business, sports, etc. Few newspapers have reporter on a media beat Question to consider:  Question to consider What are the challenges in reporting on incomplete, inaccurate or misleading news stories? Credits:  Credits This presentation was developed by The Medill School of Journalism and The Mongerson Prize for Investigative Reporting on the News. Funding for this presentation was provided by the John S. and James L.Knight Foundation.

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