Eight Simple Rules for Doing Accurate Journalism [+ One]

Eight Simple Rules for Doing Accurate Journalism by Craig Silverman.

From the post:

It’s a cliché to say clichés exist for a reason. As journalists, we’re supposed to avoid them like the, um, plague. But it’s useful to have a catchy phrase that can stick in someone’s mind, particularly if you’re trying to spread knowledge or change behaviour.

This week I began cataloguing some of my own sayings about accuracy — you can consider them aspiring clichés — and other phrases I find helpful or instructive in preparation for a workshop I’m giving with The Huffington Post’s Mandy Jenkins at next week’s Online News Association conference. Our session is called B.S. Detection for Online Journalists. The goal is to equip participants with tools, tips, and knowledge to get things right, and weed out misinformation and hoaxes before they spread them.

So, with apologies to Bill Maher, I offer some new, some old, and some wonderfully clichéd rules for doing accurate journalism. Keep these in your head and they’ll help you do good work.

The problem of verification, if journal retractions are credited, isn’t limited to those writing under deadline pressure. Verification is neglected by those who spend months word-smithing texts.

I like Silverman’s post but I would ask:

Why do you say that?

However commonplace or bizarre a statement maybe, always challenge the speaker for their basis for a statement.

Take former CIA Director Michael Hayden‘s baseless notion that:

“…but this group of millennials and related groups simply have different understandings of the words loyalty, secrecy, and transparency than certainly my generation did.”

As Zaid Jilani goes on to demonstrate, Hayden’s opinion isn’t rooted in fact but prejudice.

The question at that point is whether Hayden’s prejudice is newsworthy enough to be reported. Having ascertain that Hayden is just grousing, why not leave the interview on the cutting room floor?

Journalists have no obligation to repeat the prejudices of current or former government officials as being worthy of notice.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.