Credibility is all journalism has

At the end of the day it won’t matter how much news companies invest in new media or make fancy new features if those companies can’t get basic journalism right.

Credibility is at the heart of what we do. Every Jayson Blair sets us all back. That self-inflicted wound really hurt the credibility of The New York Times, and without credibility what does a newspaper really have?

Anyone can print words or run TV spots, but without getting the facts right, it’s not journalism. So, as much as all of us have been fawning over the new Las Vegas Sun redesign, it’s quite saddening to see the monster correction they had on a recent story about a shooting in an affluent suburb. The correction weighs in at more than 500 words.

That’s longer than many stories are to begin with. In fact, the correction is so long and the errors so egregious that I wonder why they just didn’t run a correction stating what they got right. Surely, it would have been shorter.

The story, by the way, is a little less than 1,500 words. That’s not a very good story-to-correction ratio.

This all comes on the heels of the horribly reported and factually challenged story by the Times about John McCain. Newspaper journalists should probably lay off complaining about bloggers for awhile. I’m just saying.

  • The Sun does deserve some credit, I think, for being thorough in the correction. It’s more than most papers would do, even in the case of a story so far out as this one. Having to pull back and restate so much ought to serve as a gut-check to editors to rethink how this story made it to publication without proper vetting. Being open about what went wrong, I think, should help the Sun maintain and rebuild some credibility it lost with this story.

  • DM

    Myself (researcher and professor in mathematics and computer science at a major university in France) and other professionals in other fields (lawyers, high-level civil servants and so on) have long deplored that journalists often don’t get things right, and do not publish corrections. I’ve spotted errors that would not be tolerated from a highschool student (such as confusion between kWh and kW/h in a technology story). The late physics Nobel prize laureate Richard Feynman also expressed fairly critical thoughts at the way ignorant journalists garble what is beyond their grasp.

    So, yes, journalists should stop complaining about bloggers and begin cleaning up their own mess.