Would you continue reading your favorite news website if you found out that they make everything up? Or that they quote everyone out of context? Accuracy is an important goal in journalism, and it can make or break your reputation.
Kovach and Rosenstiel write in “Journalism of Verification” that journalism is different from entertainment and other expression because it “alone is focused first on getting what happened down right.”
The overarching solution I gathered from “Journalism of Verification” to the problem of inaccuracy and unchecked facts is that journalists need to have more of a “scientific method” regarding objectivity, including the following guidelines:
- “Never add anything that was not there.
- Never deceive the audience.
- Be transparent as possible about your methods and motives.
- Rely on your own original reporting.
- Exercise humility.”
Seems like a good plan to me. Embellishing stories is great for fiction, or works that are “based on a true story”, but not in the news. As far as deceiving the audience, it’s very easy to accidentally misquote someone by getting one or two words wrong.
If you’re getting second-hand information, it would make it even harder to get the right quotes, which is why doing your own work is so important, or at least not accepting blindly what others have written. Consider the Twitter rumor I wrote about earlier, I blindly retweeted false information because I didn’t verify it myself.
In terms of transparency, letting your readers know everything up-front makes you appear more credible and trustworthy. Hiding information usually means that you’re up to no good. I particularly liked the part in the article in which Kovach and Rosenstiel say to release the name of your anonymous source if it turns out that they’re misleading you or aren’t being truthful, because it means that you won’t let a lie go unpunished.