Sep 18, 2014 TheHill.com story.
"Remember, journos, if your mother tweets she loves you, check it out."
The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) adopted a new code of ethics this month and the main difference between the revamped code and and the one that had been in place since 1996 is that the new version addresses the alarming tendency to rush stuff onto the Web as soon as we hear about it, without taking the time to make sure it's true.
According to the new SPJ code, journalists should:
- Verify information before releasing it
- Remember that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.
In other words, journalists should not:
- Report that someone has died when that person is still very much alive (Rep. Gabrielle Giffords [D-Ariz.], January 2011; Joe Paterno, January 2012).
- Report that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned the Affordable Care Act when in fact it has upheld the Affordable Care Act (June 2012).
- Report on the day of the Boston Marathon bombings that a Saudi suspect is in custody when the two Chechen suspects were not identified until three days later (April 2013).
- Misidentify the gunman as the brother of the gunman in the Sandy Hook School massacre, nor incorrectly report that the gunman's mother worked at the school (December 2012).
For as long as human beings have gotten wind of some juicy tidbit of news, they have succumbed to the temptation to share it before verifying it. What's changed is the speed at which news spreads.
And as the pace of news dissemination has increased, so, too, has the frequency with which inaccurate or wholly incorrect information gets passed along.
So journalists need an updated code of ethics to use common sense.
I like this from the article:
One might think that it wouldn't take that many embarrassments of the "Dewey Defeats Truman" variety to get news organizations to proceed with extreme caution, but you know the darned public: Folks want their information fix and they want it now.
Of course. It's our fault.
It wasn't long ago that the so-called legacy media counted on their customers to understand that if they wanted reliable news, they needed to steer clear of upstart websites that flouted the lofty standards of verification held sacred by the mainstream.
But when the big boys traffic in gossip as much as their scrappy new competitors do, they don't look like bastions of ethical journalism when they get scooped; they just look old and slow.
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