Journalistic credibility comes into question

Journalistic+credibility+comes+into+question

According to the Newspaper Association of America, in one week, 69 percent of adults in the United States read “newspaper media content” online or in print.

Many people assume what they read is automatically true. A journalist’s job is to provide the honest truth and to simply tell a story as it is. However, journalists have to be aware of possible over-embellishment and avoid diversion of actuality.

Granite Bay High School advanced journalism advisor Karl Grubaugh helps to ensure that the Granite Bay Gazette, GBHS’ student newspaper, is as credible and honest as possible.

“I have to trust student journalists … until I have a reason not to,” Grubaugh said.

Such cases have been rare. In 20 years, he has only come across six cases of plagiarism in his journalism program class at GBHS. Luckily, only one of them was published.

“You just have to be very diligent and careful,” Grubaugh said.

Gazette co-editor-in-chief Tamren Johnk said the interview process, the first step in writing a story, is extremely important and must be done with diligence. She said it’s difficult to find people willing to be interviewed, especially on sensitive subjects.

“You start off with general questions that they’d feel more comfortable with answering … and as you go farther into the interview, you want to ask more difficult questions,” Johnk said.

Johnk said she usually knows the answer she wants to hear from her source. So if they start to veer away from the question being asked, she will rephrase the question or “keep hammering them.”

In the Gazette newsroom, after a story is written, it’s proofread by many people before it’s published. However, sometimes there are mistakes that get overlooked. The first step to fixing a mistake, is noticing that there is one.

“If someone notices it then they bring it up to one of the editors or co-editors-in-chief and then we have to address that (with) Grubaugh,” Johnk said. If the corrections are severe enough, they’re printed in the “corrections” section on page A2.

Unlike Gazette journalists, broadcast journalists don’t get second chances. News 10 news anchor Cristina Mendonsa emphasized the importance of proofing before a story is shown on television.

“You want to triple source things before the story becomes public,” Mendonsa said.

Mendonsa said it starts with a reporter, then it goes to the manager. Next it goes to a producer who, if needed, sends it to an attorney to look for legal accountability. However, inevitable mistakes are going to occur.

Mendonsa described a personal experience she had about 25 years ago in which she made a mistake on live television.

As she was setting up for a live shot for a crime case, she decided to stand in front of the suspect’s house where there was a car parked. Unknowingly, the license plate of the car was clearly shown in the shot which was aired on public television.

“The person who owned that vehicle was not happy with me at all because I accidentally got their vehicle on the air as I was standing in front of the suspect’s house,” Mendonsa said.

In cases like these, Mendonsa said the best resolution is a sincere apology.

A recent elaboration of a news story caused much controversy among the dedicated fans of NBC news anchor Brian Williams. For over a decade, Williams claimed that a helicopter he was in during the invasion of Iraq was hit.

However, he recently revealed that he was not in the impacted helicopter but rather he was in the one behind it. According to the pilots of Williams’ helicopter, their aircraft was not behind. It was part of a completely different company.

Because of his variation of the true story, Williams’ viewers became skeptical of other things he’s told them over the years. There is something unsettling about the possibility of journalists such as Brian Williams lying so easily.

Mendonsa said some journalists might have seen this recent issue as a threat to their reputation.

“I know people who know him personally and tell me he’s a sincere man … and a good journalist,” Mendonsa says.

Mendonsa said local journalists, their audience is much smaller, challenging them to have to have a stronger connection with their viewers.

“We have to prove ourselves to our viewers every single day … and some days are better than others,” Mendonsa said. “If you purposefully lie, then you’re in the wrong business because trust is everything.”

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