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Archive for June 19th, 2014

I’m going to repeat myself here, but journalists, not sources, are responsible for the accuracy of our stories.

Jack Shafer has a great post on “anonymous sources,”* prompted by the New York Times walking back from two stories it had based on unnamed sources (stories you probably read or heard about that apparently falsely disparaged golfer Phil Mickelson and former prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl). I encourage reading Shafer’s piece and won’t go into detail on it here.

But remember this is the newspaper that reported false information about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, then published reporter Judith Miller’s explanation, “If your sources are wrong, you are wrong.”

That was the weakest explanation of journalistic malpractice of anything I’ve heard, and that includes reporters who blame plagiarism or malpractice on being busy or rushed or on careless note-taking.

The Times apparently didn’t learn or has forgotten the important and difficult lessons it learned in the Miller case.

It’s kind of incredible to me that any journalists don’t understand this, but your sources are nearly always wrong. Not about everything, but usually about something. Verification is your job, not the source’s.

Sources can be wrong for a variety of reasons, innocent as well as malicious (some of these reasons apply to on-the-record sources, but I’m focusing on unnamed sources here): (more…)

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Newsrooms need to provide live coverage of most events and breaking news stories in their communities.

Live coverage will change your newsroom’s culture and workflow quicker and more profoundly than any other step you will try. It will make your news site more timely and produce more content and deeper engagement than any other step you will try. And it won’t take much more work from your staff; they mostly just have to start working differently.

If a journalist is covering an event for your newsroom, you should cover it live unless you have a strong reason not to (more on those later). Instead of taking notes at the event, the journalist should livetweet it, using the tweets mostly as notes if you need to write a story after the event. (You still might need to take notes of things you need to check out later.)

In all four of our Project Unbolt newsrooms, live coverage has been perhaps the most significant success, in our efforts to unbolt from print culture and processes. In a series of blog posts this week and next, I will address live coverage issues.

We’ll start with situations where newsrooms should consider live coverage: (more…)

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