Journalism 101: Can I trust the Internet?

As a longtime journalist, I did not have access to the Internet when I first started. But now, here we are — journalists all — using the Internet to research so many of our stories. Folks, it is easy to get complacent and start believing all that you read on the Internet. For example, I read two different lawn care company web sites — one of them said you SHOULD use slow-release fertilizer and why. If I hadn’t read the other one, I wouldn’t have known that some companies believe the OPPOSITE is true. You’ve got to call people and ask them to elaborate on what you’re reading — not just accept what you read at face value. The Internet provides names and phone numbers of people you can call to confirm what could have been written a year ago. Be diligent, fine young writers! Don’t trust everything you read 🙂

Journalists: Should they let sources read stories before they go to print?

Today, I got one of those questions asked of me ever-so-often — can I read what you write to make sure it’s accurate, before it goes to press?

I’ve tried various responses over the years. Here are some, with the last being what I most often do.

1) We’re both professionals doing our job. I believe that you are giving me factual important information and you can believe that I will do my best to present this story in an honest and accurate way.  (So, the answer is no.)

2) Or you can take the long explanation approach — Well, our deadlines are st tight in journalism, if we let everyone we interview read the article and then try to listen to each one tell us what they think we should say, we’d never get it done.

3) Or you could say, actually, no professional journalists do not allow sources to read their articles before they go to press, but if you have some concerns about what we’ve discussed, please do tell me now, so we can make sure we both feel confident about this article.  I had to do that today while talking with a physician about an award one of her colleagues was receiving. She told me her concerns. I understood and told her I would do the best to follow ethical journalistic practices  — and I even offered her a very short synopsis of what I might say about a particular anecdote. That’s it, though, folks. You have to have confidence in your self and your sources, and then you need to be extra, extra careful about the tone and the honesty and the accuracy. It’s difficult to do that, which is why I believe experienced journalists are still needed in today’s society.

I’ll post the story  here when it gets published.