"If your mother says she loves you..."

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I have found that on occasion, a person you interview will make a false or inaccurate statement without all of the facts about the subject.  It is human nature, and I can't say that I am immune from doing the same.  It is generally easy to tell when sources are lying or are mistaken when interviewing for a hard news story.  If one witness says that six men robbed a liquor store, when the other witnesses and the police report say that there were only two, it is easy to disregard that information.  However, it may become more difficult to verify information that sources give you when doing an investigative report.

For an article I was doing, I asked a subject about thefts that specifically occurred on-campus at Seton Hill University (SHU).  They immediately shot back, recalling how property of theirs was stolen, and how they were displeased with the way that SHU had handled the incident.  I could have stopped right there, quoted that person as saying that they had their belongings stolen on campus at SHU.  Why would I need to check it if I got a first hand account?  But I asked them to clarify their statements, and it turned out that they actually did not have their belongings stolen on campus, but on a University sponsored field-trip.

When you are doing investigative reporting, you will generally be unable to verify information you find by doing a google search, so it is important to get as accurate information as you can get from as many sources.  Just because you can quote someone, even if they misspoke, it's not always a good idea.  If you do not frame the quote properly or use it as a fact when it is false, it will not matter if it is a quote from someone else.

Original Assignment


Great cautionary tale. Always ask whether someone reported something that they complain about, and then talk to the person who would have taken the complaint. Angry people aren't always accurate people.

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