Journalism 101, or why Adam Schefter was and is wrong

It is probably worth explaining here not only that it is bad to send a story to a source for pre-publication review, but why it is bad. While I assure you this is not normal practice, and is indeed right up there as one of the basic tenets of journalism along with “spell people’s names correctly” and “don’t make shit up,” and that all reporters know not to do it (both innately and from having it drilled into their heads by competent and ethical instructors, colleagues, and bosses), there is no reason a normal person would ever spend a minute thinking about it. But it’s not some arcane, ivory-tower, j-school ethical holdover; it’s common sense. Every source for every story is by definition an interested party, and their interest is in the story being reported in a certain way. That’s not necessarily intentional or nefarious, but it’s without exception—why else would they talk to a reporter? They want something out there, and they want it to be their version. That’s a conflict of interest that’s unavoidably inherent in the very idea of sourcing. This doesn’t mean that sources shouldn’t be trusted, but it does mean that they should not be the final arbiter of the story’s content—especially when, as was the case here, the story was one about a conflict between two sides, and only one side was handed the rubber stamp.

(via the Defector)

Unless other egregious examples of journalistic ethical lapses come to light I do not thing Schefter should get the shaft. J-school students should take this as an example of what not to do.

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About Paul

I’m a Detroit expat recently returned from Tokyo living in Chattanooga. I’m a consulting security professional and father of two. I promise that my views and politics are mine; not yours or my employer’s or anyone’s. I follow no party or affiliation or anything. My things are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license unless otherwise stated.

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