Getting It Right

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Summary:

Explore: Media accuracy, journalism, media ethics, freedom of the press, breaking news, reporting challenges, errors, corrections, the role of the press, deadlines.

Media mistakes often occur because journalists fail to remember the adage that while it's good to be first, it's better to be accurate. Veteran journalists Gordon Peterson and Clarence Page, and Richard Jewell, a victim of inaccurate reporting, discuss the most common reporting mistakes and how they happen.

Introduction:

This video and viewing guide examine accuracy in journalism: why it's important to get the story right; why journalists sometime get the story wrong; and the effects of errors in the news. There are many reasons why mistakes appear in the news media. On rare occasions, journalists may attempt to intentionally deceive their readers or viewers. Others may make careless spelling or math mistakes. Most often, it is the pressure to report a story as fast as possible that lets mistakes slip through. The ever-increasing speed of the digital news cycle only amplifies the pressure. Even the best reporters can make mistakes, particularly when a story is evolving as they work. What is true one moment may be incorrect after the next development.

This unit looks at the ethical guidelines journalists attempt to follow, why the news media sometimes fall short of the goal of accurate reporting and the impact of those errors. Learn more about our role as news consumers in identifying errors and navigating a diverse media landscape.

Recommended grade levels: Middle school through college

Essential Questions:

  • What factors contribute to mistakes in the news media?
  • What effect do mistakes have on the reader/viewer and on the news profession?
  • What role do deadlines and the competitive nature of the news business — the race to be first — have on wrong information being reported?
  • Should the news media follow ethical guidelines? Which guidelines and why?
  • What is our role as news consumers?
  • How does freedom of the press function in today's society?