How journalists verify (New research details how journalists verify information - Poynter)

“There’s no hard and fast rule about any of this stuff,” one interviewee told the authors. “You have to exercise your judgment all the time.”

‘‘[T]o me, verification is much more rooted in the actual reporting process, step by step and looping back in upon itself,” said another.

Among the interviewees there were those who applied a disciplined approach to verification.

“Some arrived for the interview armed with indexed binders full of source materials; some had clearly refreshed their memories of the reporting by reviewing their notes, and related articles, before their meetings with us; one checked additional facts and followed-up via email,” the researchers write.

A commitment to verification may be shared across journalists, but this research suggests any shared norms are combined with variations in practice.

“Methods for ensuring accuracy varied greatly, with some factual statements relayed, with or without attribution, based on a single subject’s word, while others were rigorously triangulated,” the authors write. “Strongly idealistic statements about the need for verification were often made during the course of the same interview as were indications of methodological ambiguity.”

In terms of specifics, here are a few findings from the research:

- On checking names: ”An almost universal practice among participants is asking sources to spell their own name to ensure correct spelling, either at the beginning or the end of the interview.” Some journalists also check names against official sources.

- On offering sources pre-publication review: “Despite some evidence in the literature that partial pre-publication review is not the taboo it used to be (Stoltzfus 2006; Carr 2012), our subjects displayed a strong sense that it was a discouraged practice.”

- On quotes: “…methods for checking the accuracy of quotes vary greatly. Some reporters routinely record and transcribe interviews, while some record but rarely transcribe and others rarely use recorders at all. Some check quotes against tapes only if there is a specific concern, such as difficulty hearing, or the threat of libel litigation.”

- On a source’s personal history: “Facts relating to a source’s personal history are considered not to require verification … or are simply not verified because there is no practical way to do so.”

The death of investigative journalism Comedy Central’s The Daily Show 

“Actually, aggregation has a long, proud and ethical history in journalism. If you’re an old-school journalist, don’t think Huffington Post or Drudge when you think about aggregation; think AP. The Associated Press is primarily largely an aggregation service*, except that it its members pay huge fees for the privilege of being aggregated (and for receiving content aggregated from other members). The New York Times and Washington Post also have long histories of aggregation. In my years at various Midwestern newspapers, we reported big local and regional stories that attracted the attention of the Times, Post and other national news organizations. Facts we had reported first invariably turned up in the Times and Post stories without attribution or with vague attribution such as “local media reports.” I don’t say that critically. When I was a reporter and editor at various Midwestern newspapers, we did the same thing with facts we aggregated from smaller newspapers as we did regional versions of their local stories.”

In his book, “The Victorian Internet,” author Tom Standage describes how, after inventing the telegraph, its creators struggled for years before the world figured out how it might actually be used. In 1844, with a U.S. government-funded telegraph line functioning between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, its inventor, Samuel F.B. Morse, was still trying to convince a skeptical world of his invention’s usefulness. “Yet after a while [Morse] realized that everybody still thought of the telegraph as a novelty, as nothing more than an amusing subject for a newspaper article, rather than the revolutionary new form of communication that he envisaged,” Standage writes.

Morse had originally tried to convince Congress to fund and use the telegraph for government communications, but the invention really took off when it started to be used for business and commercial communications. By the early 1850’s, sending and receiving telegrams had become “part of everyday life for many people around the world.”

Now, a century and a half later—and almost 15 years into the digital media revolution—there seem to be a few important things to note.

Actually, aggregation has a long, proud and ethical history in journalism. If you’re an old-school journalist, don’t think Huffington Post or Drudge when you think about aggregation; think AP. The Associated Press is primarily an aggregation service*, except that it its members pay huge fees for the privilege of being aggregated (and for receiving content aggregated from other members).

The New York Times and Washington Post also have long histories of aggregation. In my years at various Midwestern newspapers, we reported big local and regional stories that attracted the attention of the Times, Post and other national news organizations. Facts we had reported first invariably turned up in the Times and Post stories without attribution or with vague attribution such as “local media reports.” I don’t say that critically. When I was a reporter and editor at various Midwestern newspapers, we did the same thing with facts we aggregated from smaller newspapers as we did regional versions of their local stories.

  1. Newsrooms are increasingly outsourced. “Well-paid journalists in old media are frequently exchanged for free-lancers or external content companies with lower costs,” he says. “How this effects editorial integrity and the quality of journalism, we don’t really know yet. As editors, you have much less control over content produced by outside partners.”
  2. Two-speed journalism is now a reality.
  3. Breaking news is becoming digital. In this world, speed often trumps accuracy.
  4. Data journalism is accepted as a discipline.
  5. Infographics dominate print and web.
  6. The differences between print and broadcast have shrunk.
  7. More momentum from mobile.
  8. Social media enrich journalism.
  9. Ethics – going back to basics
  10. All-round newspapers are challenged online by big tabloids.

storyboard:

The Morgue Lives!

It is a cramped basement annex, stacked high with metal filing cabinets, full of three-fourths of a million pounds of old newspaper clippings and photos, going back 160 years.

It’s simply called “the morgue.”

To get here, a reporter must leave the shiny glass tower that is the 40th Street headquarters of the New York Times, walk a half-block down the street, and descend three levels below the sidewalk. There, in a nondescript tower, she will emerge from a dirty elevator, walk past a janitor’s closet, then past a giant, rusted pump contraption with running water, and finally reach a pair of metal doors. There are glue traps with belly-up cockroaches in the corner.

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It’s a cry you hear often from journalists in the West, and it’s easy to see why.

  • A 2010 study in the UK estimated that between 15,000 to 20,000 journalist had lost their jobs since 2001, and the cuts have continued over the last two years.
  • In the UK, the cuts have not just been at newspapers as the BBC has been forced to cut thousands of staff, many of them in its news departments. Its funding has been frozen and it has had to absorb the costs of funding World Service, which used to be funded directly by the British government.
  • A 2010 study found that between 2007 to 2009, newspaper circulation dropped precipitously in many developed countries, including down by 20 per cent in Greece, 18 per cent in Japan, 17 per cent in Canada and most dramatically by 25 per cent in the UK and a staggering 30 per cent in the US.
  • A recent report by the professional networking site, LinkedIn, found that of 30 industries, employment in the USdecreased most in newspapers during the recession.
jayrosen:

Why I study journalism and criticize it and try to make it better when I can figure out how.
The reason is there in this quote from Thinking the Twentieth Century, by Tony Judt with Timothy Snyder. (Penguin Books, 2012) 

Democracies corrode quite fast; they corrode linguistically, or rhetorically if you like— that’s the Orwellian point about language. They corrode because most people don’t care about them. Notice that the European Union, whose first parliamentary elections were held in 1979 and had an average turnout of over 62 percent, is now looking at turnout of less than 30 percent, even though the European Parliament matters more now and has more power. The difficulty of sustaining voluntary interest in the business of choosing the people who will rule over you is well attested. And the reason why we need intellectuals, as well as all the good journalists we can find, is to fill the space that grows between the two parts of democracy: the governed and the governors. 

Tony Judt, who lived upstairs from me, was one of the great students of the West, and did as much as anyone I know to warn of the corrosives of his time. He was probably the most serious person I have ever met. Judt died prematurely of Lou Gehrig’s Disease in 2010.
Read this brilliant and impossibly moving essay about his last years by his wife, Jennifer Homans: Tony Judt, a Final Victory.

jayrosen:

Why I study journalism and criticize it and try to make it better when I can figure out how.

The reason is there in this quote from Thinking the Twentieth Century, by Tony Judt with Timothy Snyder. (Penguin Books, 2012) 

Democracies corrode quite fast; they corrode linguistically, or rhetorically if you like— that’s the Orwellian point about language. They corrode because most people don’t care about them. Notice that the European Union, whose first parliamentary elections were held in 1979 and had an average turnout of over 62 percent, is now looking at turnout of less than 30 percent, even though the European Parliament matters more now and has more power. The difficulty of sustaining voluntary interest in the business of choosing the people who will rule over you is well attested. And the reason why we need intellectuals, as well as all the good journalists we can find, is to fill the space that grows between the two parts of democracy: the governed and the governors. 

Tony Judt, who lived upstairs from me, was one of the great students of the West, and did as much as anyone I know to warn of the corrosives of his time. He was probably the most serious person I have ever met. Judt died prematurely of Lou Gehrig’s Disease in 2010.

Read this brilliant and impossibly moving essay about his last years by his wife, Jennifer Homans: Tony Judt, a Final Victory.

futurejournalismproject:

News Orgs: their Fans and Followers, March 2012

The Onion, holding its own.

UPDATE: Just to clarify, this is US-based. H/T: Ben Piven.

(via totoromanos)

lifeandcode:

Computer programing is a vast domain, stretching from embedded systems that end up being the brain of your refrigerator to vastly sophisticated algorithms that let Wall Street traders defraud the public detect and capitalize on trends.

The good news for people who want to learn how to program…

winckler:

Richard Rodriguez grew up in California, the son of immigrant Mexican parents. He excelled academically, completed degrees at Stanford University and Columbia University, and was poised to continue in academia when he turned down offers from several prestigious schools, uncomfortable with the possibility that affirmative action gave him an unfair advantage. Rodriguez wrote about his early experiences in Catholic school and his assimilation to America in his first book, Hunger of Memory. Subsequent books, Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father, and Brown: The Last Discovery of America, further explore issues of culture, race, and identity. Rodriguez has received the George Foster Peabody Award, the Frankel Medal from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the International Journalism Award from the World Affairs Council of California. His work has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Rodriguez visited Butler University in the fall of 2011 as part of the Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers series and agreed to interview with Booth’s Susan Lerner.

Susan Lerner: Can you describe the path that led you into writing?

Richard Rodriguez: I was an accidental writer at the start. I was in graduate school, preparing to become a teacher of English—probably at the college level—when I found myself the uneasy beneficiary of affirmative action. Ultimately, I left the university (and abandoned my teaching plans) in protest against affirmative action. And it was only then—within the loneliness of my life outside the academy—that I felt impelled to write about what education had done to and for me (how it had changed my life) and living within the illogic of “the minority student” that I turned to write an intellectual memoir. My first book, Hunger of Memory, gave birth to the idea that I was a writer.

After posting the link to “The lowly life of the lonely copy editor,” I received this note from Robin Sterns, a former copy editor who is currently out of journalism:

I’m sure the below (a piece on my recent experience as a “copy editor”) is more than you want to read, but I assure you that the column rings 100% true in my experience.

Anyone with any real knowledge was gone at my paper (the Hilton Head Island Packet in South Carolina) and the kids who were left not only had no experience/training as copy editors but resisted/rejected input from someone who did. They/we were treated like pond scum by the entire newsroom, and – most stunning to me – bypassed completely when it came to posting online content, which isn’t copy edited at all and doesn’t even have the same headline as the hard copy paper.

I’ve excerpted her piece, which Sterns says hasn’t been published anywhere else.