Check Your Facts Before Publishing

Have you read something on social media and immediately shared? Did you stop to think about whether it was accurate?

It’s a question, I honestly hadn’t given much thought to on my personal Facebook page, but now I’m pausing before I hit share.

At a recent media conference, Bill Schackner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette questioned, “Just because you can send it quickly, should you?”

(Source: ING)

(Source: ING)

Unfortunately, it seems as if that is exactly what many reporters are doing.

A new survey from Dutch company ING found that 45 percent of international journalists “publish as soon as possible and correct later,” while only 20 percent always do their due diligence before publishing.

Additionally, the 2014 Study Impact of Social Media on News report, created for PR professionals and journalists, reported that one-third of journalists don’t consider social media posts a reliable source of information.

That doesn’t mean they don’t see the value of social media posts. Fifty percent said the majority of their news tips and facts come from social.

Scott Jaschick, editor and founder of Insider Higher Ed, said at the same media conference, “We now have unofficial sources of information. That really helps.”

I was encouraged, though, when he told the audience to lots of applause, “We’re old school journalists. We actually like to confirm facts.”

Maybe more journalists will return to the days of fact checking.

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2 thoughts on “Check Your Facts Before Publishing

  1. And now we have the news story this week of the kids found crying in a hot Houston car, who were rescued by passersby who smashed the windows and got them out. The media rushed to report that the woman had been getting her hair done while the kids roasted… people on social media rushed to judgment that the mom should be thrown in jail and her kids taken away. Some people probably said worse. One news media outlet after another repeated the story, including majors such as The Washington Post. And yet all along, the woman had actually locked her keys in the vehicle and was in a nearby store trying to get help. The news media updated the story, of course, but not after who knows how many people were ready to figuratively burn this woman at the stake.

  2. Thanks for posting this. It’s been a concern of mine for a while — journalists seem to think it’s okay to, as is quoted in your piece, publish asap and then correct as necessary. While I get the pressures on them to be the first with a story, that is beyond irresponsible. And they always hide behind the words “according to” or “allegedly” or “reportedly” or “some people say….” Those are good for legal reasons, but when they become an excuse for sloppy journalism, that’s not good.

    The epitome of all this is the recent story of the little girl with the disfigured face in the KFC; her grandmother had reported that the store kicked them out because the girl’s face was disturbing other customers. Nearly every major media outlet, and countless smaller ones, ran with the story. It generated a massive backlash against KFC on social media. Protests were inevitable. But then… a few days later, a small newspaper started reporting that the facts didn’t line up. It appears at this point that the family made up the story (though they’re sticking to it), presumably to extort money from KFC.

    While that attempt at extortion is abhorrent, equally inexcusable and self-serving (though on a different level) was the media’s rush to report without fact-checking. If a small newspaper could’ve found these facts, certainly CNN could’ve. Better yet, the media should’ve held off the story until they had the facts. Then, as if that’s not enough, the media I saw reporting the revised story didn’t even own up to their part in it! For example, WTOP in the DC area had reported the initial story, but in their follow-up, they described it as having “gone viral” — nothing about how they themselves, and other major media, played a part in it going viral. When people saw the story shared on Facebook, Twitter, etc., while some certainly passed it on without a second thought, I’m sure there were many others who first attempted some due diligence by checking major media — and thought they were confirming its veracity. News media can’t absolve themselves by putting themselves on the same level as social media, which simply claiming the story “went viral” effectively does.

    It’s time the media be held more accountable for their actions, especially now that revenues are driving their journalistic decisions more than ever. The problem, the double-edged sword, is that they have the protection of the First Amendment, so there’s no entity to police the media, apart from their policing themselves. And while there are media watchdog groups, they do little good when the media has a megaphone and the watchdog groups have a kazoo.

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