Tag Archives: Fact checker

Why “process journalism” is neither journalism, nor process

Jeremy Toeman, talking about the truly absurd “Twittergate”, sums up why process journalism fails:

“But this is par for the course if your job is breaking news as fast as possible, as there is no reward for being late nor is there a penalty for being inaccurate.”

With process journalism, there is no penalty for being inaccurate. If something is wrong, just go back and rewrite it. There’s no pressure to ensure the facts are right when you hit the publish button.

How anyone with half a brain can think that this is a better method than dull, old-fashioned fact-checking and multiple sourcing I don’t know. Of course, doing proper, in-depth reporting takes time and money and effort – it’s hard, and it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get the story right.

But it does mean you have a better chance of getting the story right than any other method.

Journalism as beta isn’t journalism. Saying that there’s such a thing as “beta journalism” makes as little sense as saying there’s such a thing as “beta car making”. If your car broke down, would you be happy if the car maker turned around and said “oh, sorry, we’re trying out a new system called ‘process manufacture’. We’ll fix it for you, but sorry you got stranded out in the woods. We got a new set of parts and took a chance on them fitting right without bothering to check the measurements.”

Or to put it another way: next time Jeff Jarvis is flying across the Atlantic to tell newspaper people how to fix their industry, I bet he’d be pretty unhappy if Boeing had used “process plane making” to construct the 747 he’s on.

Of course, news writing isn’t in the same league of importance as the safe manufacture of products which we trust with thousands of lives. But businesses can be hurt and lives can be lost because of news stories. When you have the kind of influence that major news vendors have, you bear a massive responsibility to get it right first time.

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