Case Study1

25 Jan

The main issue I have with this story is that there is only one source who is actually quoted.  The couple who lost the dog is unidentified, and none of the other witnesses are named.  I personally would never run a story based off of one person’s account of events.  Someone else would need to corroborate the story before I would consider running it. 

I would also question the eagle’s ability to carry a dog up and away without losing its grip.  Making a simple phone call to a local zoo or to the Wildlife Commission would answer that question.  Once I realized that eagles are generally not able to carry small dogs for long distances, I would almost undoubtably call off the publishing of this story, in fear of embarrassing my publication if the story were proven to be false.

Unfortunately, the lack of fact checking occurs all too often in journalism.  Today’s fast-paced industry calls for journalists to report the news as quickly as possible, because the demand is high and the competition fierce.  But this also means that as journalists we must exercise extreme caution when it comes to reporting the news.  We cannot let our desire for reporting it first outweigh the need for getting it right.  A good place to start is to look at the facts with a skeptical eye … if the story seems too good to be true, it probably is.  We can’t let a great-sounding news story black out our common sense and logic.  If we as journalists treat every story as false until proven true, then we will keep ourselves safe from publishing a questionable story such as the eagle snatching piece.

The Penn State student-run publication Onward State recently made this mistake by publishing the death of Joe Paterno a day before he actually died.  The national media picked up the story, running it without checking the facts first.  This type of mistake is very costly for a publication, and causes embarrassment and shame.  As a result, the managing editor of the newspaper stepped down.  Mistakes like these can be avoided by fact checking stories before running them.

After setting up my Quora account, my first posted question was “Has anyone ever actually witnessed a small dog being carried away by an eagle or hawk?”  I submitted this question on Monday but I have yet to receive a response.

Quora can be used by journalists in many different aspects.  It is a great way for journalists to get a feel for various people’s opinions or knowledge on specific subjects.  For example, if preparing for a big interview, Quora enables a journalist to find out what types of questions the public would like answered, thus allowing the journalist to tailor his questions accordingly.  It is also an excellent way for journalists to acquire new sources and collaborate with fellow journalists on a variety of subjects.


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