Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Check the Facts

Jasmine Lambert

Journalists have an obligation to seek the truth and report it. But that obligation includes fact checking the information they find. According to the SPJ code of ethics, journalists are supposed to, "Verify information before releasing it."

In 2012, NPR was accused of not having balanced coverage of the presidential debate by one of their readers. The article written in response by NPR addressed the concerns of the reader and verified that their facts matched up to all the other fact checks given by major news outlets. The reader made a valid point, though misinformed, that even the fact checkers must be checked.

It is a journalist's job to provide factual and timely news. People count on news platforms to provide information that they should not have to fact check because it should already be done by the news organization.

Unfortunately, sometimes reporters get it wrong and have to be corrected. This could be because they were given false information, they were trying to be first instead of right, or they could have misunderstood the information they were provided. Regardless of the reason, journalists should always strive to be correct.

In the NPR article, they were not criticized for being inaccurate; they were criticized for being unbalanced. I think the job of a reporter is to report the news fairly, present all sides of the story, and be unbiased, but I do not think they have to be balanced.

In instances such as presidential debates, reporters have the duty to report what they see and hear. If a candidate misspoke, they should report that and it is not their fault if one misspoke more times than the other.

That does not make the story unbalanced, it makes it accurate. NPR proved they were correct in the information they presented but I believe, because the reader had their own personal opinion, they were upset about how it was presented.

During presidential campaigns, the media is a very important outlet for people much like the NPR reader. People trust that they can find all the information necessary by watching the news, reading current articles, or looking at websites in order to make an informed decision on who they want to vote for president. But many times, news outlets can jump the gun on how they think voting is going to go.

In an article by American Journalism Review, it discusses how multiple credible and well-respected news outlets have made predictions about the outcomes of primary elections, based off of the standings at that time. They turned out to be right because they predicted Mitt Romney would win the Republican nomination and that he did but what if they were wrong?

I do not think this is right as a journalist. Predictions are exactly that, predictions, and they can be wrong at anytime because it is not fact and therefore should not be presented as news.

It goes back to the SPJ code about verifying your information. You cannot fact check or verify something that has not happened yet and journalists should only report the facts.

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