Reliable Factchecking is Key

Folks, I stumbled across a great editorial this past weekend in a North Carolina newspaper, Sun Journal. The article connects the survey we just conducted with factchecking remarkably well:

First they report on survey finds, but then use them to rightfully brag on their own strict policies regarding the accuracy of their coverage.

They say,

We’re not popping any buttons over the survey results — a Gallup poll last fall reported 55 percent of Americans distrust the media generally — but we do take them as an endorsement of some standard practices at this newspaper, all of which are designed to ensure accuracy, even at the cost of not being first.

We do not report information that we cannot confirm through reliable sources — for instance, from a police department spokesman or an official document, if not from an eyewitness — and we attribute that information by name, not to an unnamed source, in virtually all cases. We do not usually report second-hand news — that is, news that originates with a media outlet not associated with the Sun Journal — and if we do, we identify the source, a practice not always followed by our cousins in the electronic media.

The zooming popularity of social media and its potential for newspapers as a distribution platform put pressure on those practices only if reporters and editors subordinate our primary goal of getting it right. That won’t happen here. We’re excited about possibilities offered by social media for getting and distributing the news and plan to use those tools fully to make our reporting more timely, more accessible and, yes, to beat the competition to the punch. But when speed conflicts with accuracy, we’re not afraid to apply the brakes.

I appreciate when people can use both social media and factchecking effectively. It’s so important to verify your sources properly and it’s a topic I continue to explore. Recently I spoke at the NextGen: Charity event to explore this topic further. Reliable factchecking will go a long way in restoring readers’ trust in newspapers. With only 22% of respondents in our survey finding newspapers “very credible” I think improved factchecking is something newspapers and publishers should think about making a higher priority if they ever want to win back our wholehearted trust.

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