Wednesday, January 27, 2010

There's your trouble: Tennessean reporter maintains that newspapers don't employ fact-checkers

How often do we hear criticism of amateur bloggers for crowdsourcing, that is, for relying on readers to supplement their observations with information that gives a broader, more comprehensive picture of events? How often do we hear journos arguing that their professional status and training gives them a credibility that readers can trust even though the amateurs bring to attention matters that often get ignored in the media? How often do we hear arguments that pro reporters are more exhaustive than bloggers who have the luxury of sitting around in pajamas and letting others do the hard work of fact-checking?

And then there are media actions that tear at that journalistic pretension. Like today when Tennessean political reporter Chas Sisk responded to reader criticism of inaccuracies in one of his reports by insisting that there is no mechanism down on Broadway for insuring accuracy. So, like some blogger he is supposed to rise above, Sisk appealed to crowdsourcing as his mechanism:
the Tennessean doesn’t employ fact-checkers. No newspaper does. Fact checkers are generally used only by magazines and other publications that publish no more than once a week. Readers are our fact checkers.
One item I specifically remember from a basic journalism class in college is that reporters are considered the fact-checkers at newspapers. The editorial staff are also responsible for insuring factuality. It's been a while since I took that class, but I am surprised to learn that expectations have changed at newspapers. But if the job description of journos no longer includes fact-checking, if there is little difference now between reporters and bloggers when it comes to verification of facts, then bloggers are becoming as legitimate in sourcing news as are the professionals.

UPDATE: Chas Sisk or someone else scrubbed the original Tennessean post of the claim that he uses readers as fact checkers since I posted this last Wednesday. No correction. Just scrubbed off.

1 comment:

  1. This does not come as a surprise--I'm just surprised that someone actually admitted it. Just another way newspapers have made themselves irrelevant and useless.