They Have to Make the Right Mistakes

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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 need to be corrected now” (Haiman 13).

                I wonder if the journalist who accidently reported the wrong information about the miners’ story we studied last week would think this. After all, he was only trying to write the “first rough draft of history”, which as a draft can contain mistakes and can be worked out by others later. However, the reporter’s “rough draft” was sorted out later while making history of its own due to the damage the report had done.

                Although television news may have been more to blame in the example I gave above (although print/online news was guilty as well), newspaper journalists have to be very careful about what goes into their article. The mistakes they risk making may be minor, such as a small type that accidently added an extra letter to someone’s name, or the mistake can be drastic and damaging, such as a misreported fact that could possibly create ill-informed rumors. When I read the above quote from the handbook, I instantly related a journalist’s article to what Dr. Patterson always says in class about a first draft of a paper: although it is a first draft, it must be a polished first draft and as error free as possible. Newspaper writing has to be the same, there are some times when mistakes just happen, but they need to happen as little as possible even though the article may be the first piece of information on a developing story. In other words, thinking college essay wise, if a mistake is going to be made, it has to be one that will cost them the least amount of points possible. This accuracy helps to prevent events, such as the miners’ incident with the families, from happening.

                I think realizing how much mistakes in a newspaper can affect readers’ lives also reminded us in this handbook how powerful news articles can be. Although the articles may be quickly pieced together, in most cases they are some people’s only insight to a certain topic.

                It seemed like most of this research for this book was done in the late 90s, pre-9/11. I wonder what the author would find if he interviewed people now. With an unfavorable war going on and new forms of journalism exploding, especially on the internet, what would people have to say now? I still think they would say the same complaints. I think a lot of lack of accuracy would be blamed on the internet, where newspapers and other sites try to post information as quickly as possible, and where regular people can post information that may be incorrectly taken as fact by a journalist. With the war, I especially because it is unfavorable, newspapers have to be very careful. Articles have the ability to sway people’s opinions from one side of the conflict to the other, especially if they were uneducated about the topic prior to reading the article. I feel that journalists have to be especially careful about not making factual mistakes when writing reports on the war because of how touchy the situation is to begin with, and because any mistake they make can cause the public to develop wrongly informed opinions and ideas about what is actually going on.

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2 Comments

Richelle Dodaro said:

I really liked how you applied what Dr. Patterson said about rough drafts to these mistakes issues within journalism. I completely agree, and it's almost like it's more important for journalism to be as error-free as possible since it is reporting real life and could cause serious emotional or political, etc. damage. I also liked how you asked the question as to what would be said if he interviewed people now. I think the complaints would be alot harsher simply due to the fact that there seems to be more negativity in the world and definitely more false news spread throughout the highly-used internet.

Dianna Griffin said:

Richelle, you're right. Present day society seems to be a little more negative and skeptical. The internet does spread a lot of false news. I can find two different stories about almost anything on the internet.

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