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Make it matter: Verification essential
as journalists seek truth QT46

Posted by on Jan 23, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism | 0 comments

by Kristin Taylor

One key component of every journalist’s ethical code is truth. Given that Oxford Dictionaries named “post-truth” their 2016 word of the year and the president has called venerable traditional news sources “fake news,” getting the facts right is more crucial than ever.

Verifying information is an essential part of the reporting process. Looking at real life examples such as the process NYT reporter Suzanne Craig used to verify Trump’s tax records will help to see the steps responsible reporters take to ensure accuracy.

Being accurate means verifying information gathering in the reporting process. Whether it’s how to spell a name or if the percentages the treasurer is giving you add up to 100, always question and check the facts.

One good method to corroborate “facts” you receive is to make sure others agree. Ask the same question to several sources and make sure you get the same answers. If you don’t, dig deeper.

You should practice identifying verifiable facts in article drafts and create strategies you can use to verify those facts, such as how to check quotes for accuracy without sharing the entire article draft with the source, how to use secondary sources to verify facts, how to check information with multiple sources to provide more context and how to verify images and information on social networks.

Some suggestions:

  • Set up multiple deadlines for stories so editors can watch reporters’ progress. This helps cut down on the last-minute rush to deadline when reporters run out of time to verify.
  • Be sure all reporters know what to say if a source – particularly a school administrator or an intimidating adult – asks to read a complete story ahead of time. Create a process wh
  • ere students can check quotes for accuracy without showing the source the whole piece.Ask multiple sources the same question to make sure their answers line up.

Guideline: Journalists should approach their reporting and interviewing with a healthy dose of skepticism. This doesn’t mean they should trust no one, but it means they should be aware of potential conflicts of interest or barriers to receiving accurate information. Reporters should always verify, even if the information seems incredibly obvious and simplistic. Verifying information is much like fact-checking. Students should seek multiple forms of evidence to confirm information.

Social Media Post/Question: Why is it important for students to verify information as part of the reporting process?

Reasoning/suggestions: One key component of every journalist’s ethical code is truth. That means being accurate, and accuracy means verifying. Whether it’s how to spell a name or if the percentages the treasurer is giving you add up to 100, always question and check the facts.

One good method to corroborate “facts” you receive is to make sure others agree. Ask the same question to several sources and make sure you get the same answers. If you don’t, dig deeper.

Verifying information is an essential part of the reporting process. Looking at real life examples such as the process NYT reporter Suzanne Craig used to verify Trump’s tax records will help students to see the steps responsible reporters take to ensure accuracy.

Students should practice identifying facts that can be verified in article drafts and create strategies reporters can use to verify those facts, such as how to check quotes for accuracy without sharing the entire article draft with the source, how to use secondary sources to verify facts, how to check information with multiple sources to provide more context and how to verify images and information on social networks.

Suggestions include:

  • Set up multiple deadlines for stories so editors can watch reporters’ progress. This helps cut down on the last-minute rush to deadline when reporters run out of time to verify.
  • Be sure all reporters know what to say if a source – particularly a school administrator or an intimidating adult – asks to read a complete story ahead of time. Create a process where students can check quotes for accuracy without showing the source the whole piece.
  • Ask multiple sources the same question to make sure their answers line up.

Resources:

The Time I Found Donald Trump’s Tax Records in My Mailbox” – Susanne Craig

American Press Institute’s guidelines for verification and accuracy

How do journalists verify? A Poynter Institute Media Wire column by Canadian researchers delves into the answers.

New research details how journalists verify information – Craig Silverman, Poynter

Tools for verifying and assessing the validity of social media and user-generated content – Josh Stearns and Leighton Walter Kille, Journalist’s Resource

FactChecking Day – Poynter

Fact-checking resources – SchoolJournalism.org

Are you a journalist? Download this free guide for verifying photos and videos – Alastair Reid

Should journalists outsource fact-checking to academics? – Alexios Mantzarlis

Journalists and their sources – Thomas Patterson (talk at Carnegie)

 

 

 

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Students making content decisions – 1
Administrative review – 0

Posted by on Sep 16, 2015 in Blog, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

sprclogoby Candace Perkins Bowen
Even media staffs that have been the well-respected voice of a large, diverse student body sometimes run into problems with administrators. And sometimes a few tweaks of the editorial policy or staff manual could get them through the rough spots and apparently back on track to publish what they know their readers need and want to know.

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User-generated content

Posted by on Jul 7, 2015 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Foundations_mainEthical guidelines
sprclogo
Journalists should treat user-generated content the same as any content they create in terms of accuracy, verification, credibility, reliability and usability.

Given its growing use by various forms of media, student journalists should develop guidelines on how, when and why it should be used.

Staff manual process
Student journalists should establish a plan to vet all information and images before publishing them. All journalists should be trained in the use of this plan.

Suggestions
Before your students publish information or images from anyone outside the staff:
• Independently verify and validate it
• Positively identify sources
• Verify sources what sources say with other trusted sources
• Check for copyright infringement
• Verify the location 

Resources
How is User-generated Content Used in TV News, Neiman Lab
Guardian Launches Platform for User-generated Content, The Guardian
How Journalists Verify User-generated Content, Information on Social Media, The Poynter Institute
Ethics Guide: User-generated content (UGC) and Comments, Gatehouse Media (GHNewsroom.com)
Tools for Verifying and Assessing the Validity of Social Media and User-generated Content, Journalist’s Resource
How Storyful is Shaking Up News Reporting With User-generated Content, The Content Strategist
Accuracy and Accountability Checklist for Social Media, Mandy Jenkins at Zombie Journalism

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‘Put up’ guidelines

Posted by on Jul 7, 2015 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Foundations_mainEthical guidelines
sprclogo
Having a set of standards to follow before posting online or print content might help avoid material that causes someone to send a takedown demand.

Whether students post mainly online or to a combination of print and online, student staffs should develop authentication procedures before publishing striving to avoid Takedown Demand hassles.

Staff manual process
Student journalists should establish a plan to vet all information and images before publishing them. All journalists should be trained in the use of this plan before using it.

Suggestions
• Independently confirm information to be used for accuracy, context, perspective, truth and coherence
• Determine whether sources used are credible and representative of diverse and knowledgeable viewpoints
• Clearly attribute all information as needed for clarity and authority
• Avoid anonymous sources except in situations where they are the best and perhaps only source and where identities need protection
• Determine whether sources used have conflicts of interest
• Ensure your information has gone through a vetting process with editors
• If using teens or young people as sources for sensitive topics, realize interviewing their parents could add more credibility and context while also ensuring the parents are not surprised by a story they did not expect.
• If using social media sources, be sure information is attributed, accurate, in context and used legally and ethically
• Train and background reporters in legal and ethical issues
• If using crowd generated content, clearly indicate the source and ensure its credibility
• Be skeptical of any information you cannot verify

Resources
5 Ways News Organizations Respond to ‘Unpublishing’ Requests, The Poynter Institute
Takedown Demands: Here is a Roadmap of Choices, Rationale, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee
Respond to Takedown Demands, Student Press Law Center
Setting Criteria Before the Requests Come, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee
10 Steps to a Put-Up Policy, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee
Audio: Takedown Requests, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee, Press Rights Minute

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Issues worth building lessons around

Posted by on Dec 10, 2014 in Blog, Digital Media, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Uncategorized, Visual Reporting | 0 comments

sprclogoAs we head into a break for the holidays, three issues and concepts stand out as worth some future  consideration.

• The First Amendment: In the land of the free, why are schools afraid of freedom by Charles Haynes.
Written by this First Amendment advocate following the JEA/NSPA Washington, DC, convention, the column challenges us all to question administrator misuse of First Amendment. The article cites instances of prior review to limit discussion of ideas and groups and the elimination of some groups from school student media coverage while permitting others. The last time I checked, ordering blanket silence on some groups served no educational value or pedagogy. Haynes likened this process as a fear of freedom and questioned such philosophy as a misplaced attempt to either make schools safe. He also urged all journalism programs in schools subject to prior review – or restraint – to build a campaign to end it. You certainly would have a legion of supporters.

• The epic Rolling Stone gang-rape fallout – and how major publications get it wrong. This is only one of many resources on this coverage that violated one of journalism’s basic principles: verify your information and ensure your sources are credible. Citing the premonition “something just doesn’t feel right” about a story, author Terrence McCoy leads with the story of Richard Bradley feeling the gang rape reported in Rolling Stone did not happen. Bradley, it seems, had some experience with this kind of thing before. He once edited Stephen Glass, McCoy wrote.

In a rush to get a seemingly wonderful story into print, journalists will not verify a story or have the right sources. Because such incidents happen more than we would like to admit, we must stress scholastic reporters like others have to go beyond pre-existing bias or view and learn to apply skills of skeptical knowing or crap-detecting or just plan digging to every story, every day and across every platform. It’s an ongoing lesson never to be dropped from our curricula or from our practices.

• A toolkit by the solutions journalism network and Pulitzer Center. This material caught my eye because it focuses on something we do not do enough of: Perspective reporting and identifying sources who strive for solutions. Historians have long said those who don’t learn about an issue or concept as destined to repeat it. Is it because journalists don’t do enough follow-up reporting, add enough perspective and address solutions? This particular piece might be just the right tool at the right time to help us not only report but to keep solutions or alternatives in the public’s eye. It’s certainly worth our time to investigate the concept and give its points a shakedown cruise. Even if our students do not deal with international issues, the principles and concepts presented are worth localization. Introducing at the scholastic level just might help students, whether they become commercial journalists or not, begin to know we need to think in terms of solutions as much as issues identification.

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