Checking Sources for Accuracy

Monday, December 6, 2010

In today's world of internet media it is easy to understand how a journalist can stray from a proper source. The problem is that we trust everything we read on the internet.

Why shouldn't we? Who would post something online that isn't correct?

The truth is a lot of people and as journalists it is our job to sift through all the clutter in order to report the cold hard facts.

I recently discovered two articles about this topic at One dealt with a reporter using an anonymous Twitter feed as a source and the other about the misuse of an online press release to cause hype about extraterrestrial life.

The story that was created based on the anonymous Twitter feed dealt with radio shock jock Howard Stern possibly moving his show to iTunes. It was posted by the Star-Ledger, a New Jersey based newspaper.

The article does note that there may be no reason to believe the claim as anyone can say anything on the social media site. This should raise a red flag right away.

Is this even newsworthy if you have to mention that it might not be in your story? The answer here is no and don't waste my time by publishing it.

As for the article dealing with the online press release about NASA finding extraterrestrial life, it shows a blatant disregard for thorough investigative technique.

NASA did release information about their findings about extraterrestrial life. However, it was not that they found life on another planet.

NASA simply released a statement saying that they were going to hold a press conference about their findings. It was independent blogger Jason Kottke that sent this spiraling out of control.

In his blog Kottke uses background information on those that participated in the press conference to create a vague and wild hypothesis.

Herein lies the point, if you have no idea about something don't start making conclusions about it.

As someone who is on a path to journalism as a career i see the importance of checking and double checking sources. It is easy to get lost in the world of online media and choosing a reliable source can become difficult.
However, it is our responsibility as journalists to seek the truth and if we do use a faulty source we have no one to blame but ourselves.

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taramaurer December 6, 2010 at 10:15 AM  

I can't believe a newspaper wrote a story using an anonymous Twitter feed. If this is an example of the sources the paper uses, nobody should read it.

As journalism students, we are told that having credible sources is incredibly important. It is basic. Still, there are stories like the ones in your post. Thanks for writing a blog about this problem. It reminds me how important it is to check my sources. Also, it emphasizes that point that you can't believe everything you read on the internet.

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