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Errors damage media credibility

What sets mainstream media apart from Joe Six Pack writing a blog in his pajamas? It should be credibility. Most professional journalists and journalism ethics codes place high value on accuracy and fairness. Yet credibility for news organizations has been plummeting. A 2008 study by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism concluded that most Americans are highly skeptical of what they see, hear and read in the news media. Only 18 percent, for instance, said they believed all or most of what they read in the New York Times. Only 22 percent believe what they read in their local newspapers.

This summer, a New York Times writer wrote an appraisal of Walter Cronkite’s career after he died.   The Times later published a correction noting there were seven mistakes in this one story. Clark Hoyt, the Times ombudsman, addressed the embarrassing mistakes in his column.

Craig Silverman, the author of the “Regret the Error: book and blog, weighed in on the Times story. He also offers some advice for preventing errors. 

Your assignment: Read all three of the articles I’ve linked to in this post. Be prepared to discuss them in class on Tuesday, Sept. 15. Also due Tuesday: Find an error in a newspaper or on a news Web site. Bring a printout from the Web or a copy of the newspaper with the error marked. Attach to the error: a short typed note (with your name on it) , explaining how you think the error may have happened. Tell me what could have been done to fix or avoid the error.  This note should be no more than one page.

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Categories: accuracy
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