Top 13 Reasons Journalists Screw Up Their Stories
Over the past month, my magical mystery tour of collegemediatopia’s best and brashest conferences has led me to Seattle, New York and, most recently, Gainesville, Fla. At yesterday’s Region 3 Society of Professional Journalists Conference — held at the University of Florida — a bevy of entertaining presenters educated student and adviser attendees about all manner of journalistic greatness and ills.
A morning session, led by UF master lecturer (actual job title) Mike Foley, sought to help students stave off the most horrible creature in all of news media: the correction. He specifically shared the top reasons journalists make mistakes in their copy.
Below is a brief highlight reel of what he laid out, along with a few reasons I nominate as (cringe)worthy additions to the list. Enjoy.
Journalists Most Often Screw Up Their Stories Because…
1) They work from memory.
2) They make assumptions.
3) They deal with secondhand sources.
4) They become scatterbrained from the warp speed at which they are attempting to publish.
5) They rely upon bad sources, including those who fall into categories such as spinners, incompetents, attention-seekers, and bad memory fiends.
6) They blindly trust emails, tweets and online story comments.
7) They re-quote info from other news sources without independent verification.
What I’d add to the list…
8) They let their impassioned desire for a great story blind them to factual snafus. (See Mike Daisey.)
9) They lack understanding about an individual or topic — through either ignorance of laziness. (For example, see parachute journalism.)
10) They are bad at the writing part. (Having the facts is irrelevant if you cannot explain them clearly and correctly.)
11) They do not listen to their gut/the voice inside their head telling them something is off, too good to be true or needs another go-round on the fact-checking carousel.
12) They do not want to impose on their sources by calling them back to double-check something, a sudden cowardice I’ve especially seen play out on weekends, holidays and late nights. (Note to student journos: Toughen up. Make the call. A source might be slightly annoyed at the unexpected imposition, but they’ll be more annoyed that something wrong about them is appearing online/in print.)
13) Once their pieces are published, they do not scan the related online comments, which at times point out grammar and factual slips.
What other reasons should be included on this list???