Journalism of Verification

6 Mar

“The essence of journalism is a discipline of verification.”

So…the way I see it…and I will once again emphasize this…objectivity is the overall goal for journalists, and I will fight every one of you on this because that’s truly what I believe. Because I believe so strongly in objectivity as a journalist, I strongly believe in verifying sources.


The whole purpose of objectivity is to get to the truth, or at least the best truth available if you will. This is found through verification. You can find all kinds of stats and articles backing up a certain side of an issue if you look for it. There are entire websites and organizations devoted to exposing the “truth” that 9/11 was inside-job conspiracy. That doesn’t mean that as journalists, we should report on this side of the story to be fair, because it turns out, not all sources are created equal. Sure you can read all about these crazy conspiracy theories online, and there may be some that you even find sense in, but until you can find a verifiable and credible source, you have no story.
(Side note: found that picture above on a website…has some other that are kind of funny. Just for fun, but sadly, there is some truth to a few of them. Here’s the link.)

This may mean, from time to time, that the stories you have to cover are less than glamorous. The news isn’t always sexy, and not every story is going to win you a Pulitzer prize, but the fact of the matter is…the news isn’t for the journalists. Sure, it’s our profession, and it pays the bills, but journalism is for the people, and we have a duty to make sure the information we put out there is solid, legitimate and verifiable. 

We talked a little bit in class about Stephen Glass. I have found that this man brings anger into my soul. This is a clip of him on 60 minutes a few years back. He says that he lied for esteem, to make himself feel accepted and loved by his readers and his coworkers. Kind of makes me sick…but I also feel really bad for this man as he clearly has some issues that he needs to work out…somewhere far away from the news.

 

I apologize for the quality of the video. It’s pretty much just someone recording the TV…but it’s the only one I could find, so if you would rather read the interview, you can go to the CBS website and read the Transcript:

Stephen Glass 60 Minutes Interview 

So, the last thing I want to talk about it a serious cause for debate among journalists, and that’s the legitimacy of citizen journalism. I actually starting thinking about this because of an article that Bro. Cressman posted on Twitter. It’s title reads: “If you think Twitter doesn’t break news, you’re living in a dream world”. I thought it was kind of interesting, as I remembered hearing about the death of Whitney Houston and Kin Jung Il on Twitter before I saw it on the news, but then I remembered, I also heard about the death of Bill Cosby, Chris Brown and Rebecca Black…all of whom are still alive and well last I checked.

Here’s the article on gigaOM.com.

I talked a little bit about citizen journalism in my first post on “Who is a Journalist?” and I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion, that while there is a place for citizens to contribute to the news, they aren’t exactly what I would call a journalist. The truth is, journalists that work for a news organization have a vast network of resources that they can use to verify their stories. Citizen journalists don’t have those resources, and the chances that their sources have been verified are lot lower than a trusted news source.

This doesn’t mean that citizen’s can’t contribute to news…they most certainly can, and have for a long time. It’s just that now citizens have a lot more sources they can go to to make that contribution. Let’s say an earthquake breaks out in Utah tomorrow, and we’re all tweeting about it. That’s definitely news, and twitter may have been the first outlet that the outside world saw that news on, and the mainstream media may have caught wind of the story from Twitter, but is it really news then, or does it become news when the news station takes in depth look at the severity of the damage to homes and families?

There’s no way for a single citizen to know at the time of the earthquake the extent of the damage, because they simply do not have the resources to know, and as much as we like to think Twitter makes us important…I’d say most of us have a Twitter following of no more than 100 people, if that, so the rest of the world really doesn’t get the news until it’s picked up and verified by a reliable news source.

I think verification give credibility to journalists and news networks alike, and we have a duty to ourselves, our coworkers, our employers, our readers, and even our families to get our stories right. Without verifiable sources, we have no story, just gossip and rumors. The public puts a lot of trust in us as journalists to get the right information out, because we’re one of the only people who have the means to do so. So let’s get the facts straight for the public’s sake, and for the sake of our jobs.

 

 

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