Reader-submitted item: A journalist told me it's not his fault if there are mistakes in his stories as long as it's because people didn't call him back.
I'm not even sure where to start with that. I had to pull Tusk out just to calm myself down. I embedded a video in this post so it'll be available if I start to hyperventilate.
Journalism is an HONOURABLE profession. It requires work and dedication and constant vigilance. "They didn't call me back" is not any of those things. This is not something you say out loud. It's something you think inside your head after you get fired.
Here's the problem with that excuse: It devalues your entire news organization. People who know anything at all about the issue will know you've made stupid mistakes, and they'll assume that you are just as sloppy with your other stories, too. Now, that's the very last thing you want. Your credibility is more important than any individual news story. (Remember Mary Mapes?) Depending on the situation, there can be ripple effects across your newsroom or even your news organization. Yep, you've just made all of your co-workers look like morons. They'll thank you the next time they need to call the person who has all of the answers.
If you can't get the information you need, you can't go to air. It's as simple as that. Let's not pretend this isn't the standard. We ALL know it's the standard.
Journalists have an obligation to the public, not to a deadline. I have always hated it when half-researched stories are rushed to air or to print. It makes you look stupid. Really, really stupid. And you only make it worse when you blame someone else for your mistakes. If you can't do a story unless someone calls you back, you can't do the story until he or she calls you back.
When you destroy your own credibility with shoddy research, nobody will want to talk to you. Imagine how hard it'll be to get people to call you back when that happens. And then it's going to be hard to get a new job. And you're definitely going to need a new job.
Seriously, be selfish and hold the story until you can verify it. Isn't your credibility worth that much?
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