Journalists should rely on themselves, not historians

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"Many journalists apparently believe that since they are writing the 'first rough draft of history' and doing it under deadline pressure, it should be expected that some errors, misunderstandings and misinterpretations will occur; that historians eventually will sort it out, and that only the most egregious factual errors to be corrected now" (Haiman 13).

This belief of journalists brought up in the Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists bothers me for several reasons.  Those reasons are:

1.  Journalists should never consider their articles to be "first rough drafts."  What they have published should be a final draft.  Actually, every writer's piece should be a final draft when it is published.  In journalism this even more important since journalists are responsible for informing the public.  People often rely on newspapers and articles for information about the world around them.  If a journalist just writes a rough draft to be published, the readers may not be correctly informed.  In a way, this is a lack of integrity.  Rough drafts are meant to be kept to the writer until he/she completes the story; they are not meant to be published for the public to read. 

2.  Just because journalists write under pressure does mean errors should be expected.  Of course mistakes happen, but to have the attitude that mistakes are going to happen is not good.  A writer should have expectations that they will not make any mistakes.  This way, the writer will be more diligent and careful with what he/she writes.  Furthermore, everyone experiences writing under pressure.  Students often are still finishing papers twenty minutes before class and thus make mistakes and typos.  However, they are held responsible by the teacher for fixing these mistakes.  Journalists are held responsible by the public as well as the editors.  So to brush aside their mistakes by saying "I was under deadline pressure" is not an excuse.  Yes, mistakes happen, but writers should still write carefully and re-read their work to prevent as many as possible.  

3.  Relying on historians to "sort it out" is a lazy attitude which is using historians to do clean up something the journalist should have done in the first place.  Why don't the journalists just write the correct story in the first place?  They should have their facts straight since they are informing a large number of people.  Historians may fill in the cracks if a journalist happened to miss something, but journalists should not rely on them to do so if necessary.


Therefore, I think it is ridiculous that many "professional" journalists who are responsible for informing the public would consider their writing a first draft and expect it to have mistakes.  Just write carefully and include all the facts while being sure information is correct.


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