Thursday, February 18, 2010

Verification & Journalism

I was extremely impressed with this presentation as well. Good work guys! I actually have never heard the quote from The Elements of Journalism that states, “The essence of journalism is a discipline of verification” (79). It makes complete sense. “Practices such as seeking multiple witnesses to an event disclosing as much as possible about sources, and asking many sides for comment are, in effect, tools in the discipline of verification. These methods may be intensely personal and idiosyncratic” (79).

When breaking news occurs it’s tempting to publish it immediately so your station or newspaper can “break the story” or cover it first. Also, it may be tempting just to publish another story because it is already out there. But, if material is published that has not been verified, it can be detrimental to the news provider. Their credibility and accuracy can easily be lost. Therefore, objectivity is a method not an aim. Reporters must get the facts, be fair with the facts, and then reveal to the audience where they got the facts. Recently, The New York Times wouldn’t correct errors in two articles that contained certain statements that question their verification methods. Here is a link to an explanation.

Journalism of verification takes time to check the facts, interview multiple people, etc. Whereas, journalism of assertion can be aggressive and careless. For example, while working the assignment desk for the BYU Daily News, I found breaking news from the KSL website regarding a bomb threat at Juab High School and Juab Middle School just before we were about to go live. I informed our news director of the findings and he asked, "Has that been verified?" I think that was my first experience with actually understanding verification. I called the Juab Sheriff's Department and they confirmed the information and told me officers were responding. That is journalism of verification. However, what if I just ran the story based on the information I found online? Even if it's from a reliable news source, if I wouldn't have called and just ran the story I would be practicing journalism of assertion. I'm glad I was able to experience this first hand in a somewhat stressful situation.

Every reporter has a bias based on their past experiences, background, and upbringing. Because it's impossible to communicate without engaging some of these biases, they must be controlled. As journalists, we must do our best to take a step back and see the whole picture, try to see both sides. Verification affects journalistic biases because it allows reporters to gather more information regarding the specific topic, which hopefully gives them a better understanding to the story.

Transparency is vital in journalism. The more you reveal, the more credible you are. We should reveal as much information as possible. With the advancements of new technologies, journalists are able to be more transparent. For example, with interactive news and blogs the public can see entire interviews as opposed to specific clips the reporter edits. Therefore, journalists must watch how they ask questions, their responses, anything that could dictate what side they would be on. Also, journalists need to practice intellectual humility. People understand that we are human and appreciate the honesty about what we know and what we don't know. We should not claim to be omniscient, it will damage our credibility. Overall, verification is essential to successful reporting.
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