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How DARE you get the name of my street wrong?!!

"In all of our roundtables, the frequency of errors was cited as a major reason why the public is increasingly skeptical of what it reads."
--Haiman, Best Practices for Newspapers Journalists, pages 1-16

I was surprised at how much emphasis was placed on accuracy in this book so far; because the research they conducted was so reader-based and not from within the journalistic community, I expected there to be more complaints about newspapers being overly biased (it's the complaint I most often hear about the media in general). Of course, the people leading the roundtable discussions may have gotten this complaint initially, but then led the people in the discussion to identify inaccuracy as the problem at the root of bias. At least, people often perceive bias as leaving certain facts out or just plain making stuff up to support a certain point of view. If you cherry-pick facts, you're most likely letting your own opinions affect your reporting. I'm still surprised how little people complained about bias compared to how much they complained about getting smaller details incorrect, as well as how newspapers deal with publishing corrections. I rarely notice when newspapers make mistakes or when they publish corrections, but I rarely read newspapers, so that's probably the problem. From what people talked about in these panels, it seems like they got people who read newspapers enough to get picky over smaller details, which makes sense. You can't really get people to advise you on how to improve newswriting if they barely read it. There might have been some benefit if they got some people who hardly ever read newspapers to give feedback though; these kind of people might provide some insight into how to broaden readership by finding out what turns them off newspapers. Perhaps this is dealt with in later chapters. It just seems to me like getting smaller details right would be more a concern of regular newspaper-readers and not of the public in general. Certainly, everyone wants the major facts to be correct; this ties in to whether or not a paper's biased, and how much it's able to draw readers in with accurate information. And maybe you care more about this if you live in a place that happens to be mentioned in local newspapers a lot. It seems like I hardly ever know personally too many of the places or people mentioned in the Trib or Post-Gazette, so I wouldn't even know if the information was accurate. I guess it all depends on your perspective.

Comments (1)

Katie Vann:

I liked how tied to making mistakes to displaying a possible bias. If a mistake occurs that causes an article to appear bias, then perhaps the "mistake" was made intentionally, or as you mentioned, by "cherry-picking facts". I agree also that it seems a little unlikely that the biggest complaint people had was the corrections of a newspaper.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 20, 2009 1:57 PM.

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