Metamedia: Always check the facts

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Reporters strive to get the news out as quickly as possible, but the story must be accurate.

For example, there may be multiple sources claiming one set of circumstances is true, while others provide contradicting information.

Also, people provide constant information updates through social media outlets that may be true or rumors or wishful thinking.

How do you find the truth? That’s where journalists come in.

It’s our job to report a story as accurately as possible.

This may include asking several sources for the same information for confirmation purposes, checking a quote for accuracy or calling a source in advance to confirm plans for an event.

People may see, hear or interpret information differently, and journalists have to sort through varying accounts to determine what actually happened.

When several people present differing versions as the truth, the real story can get lost among assumptions, mistakes or even lies. Repeat a falsehood often enough and people begin to accept it as truth.

In the age of the Internet, news — errors included — lives forever.

So when we get something wrong, we take a deep breath, search for the correct information and print a correction.

As hard as we try to be accurate, people make mistakes. Readers are encouraged to call the newsroom to report errors. We would rather run a correction and admit our errors than let incorrect information stand.

Of course, with the Internet comes the flood of social media 24/7/365. Sometimes, the truth feels like a moving target.

In the pre-PC history of the Watergate era, constantly changing stories caused Bob Woodward to describe the news as “the best obtainable version of the truth.”

In an effort to teach professional news gathering and reporting methods, the journalism program demands accuracy of student reporters on The Ranger.

A story with a fact error earns a grade of F, ensuring students learn what it means to be responsible journalists.


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