2. Get it right, every time.

The following is a work in progress.

Factual errors, especially ones that are easily avoidable, do more to undermine trust than almost any other failing.

Accuracy is the starting point for all solid journalism. Get your facts right, then check them again. Know where to look to verify claims or to separate fact from fiction. And never, ever, spell someone’s name wrong.

In my first daily-newspaper job I spelled the name of a company wrong through an entire article, and didn’t discover this until after publication. I abjectly apologized to the owner of the company, who took it with amazingly good humor, but the shame I felt was a longstanding lesson.

Smart journalists know there are no stupid questions. Sometimes there are lazy questions–asking someone for information that you could have easily looked up. But if you don’t understand something, you have no excuse for not asking for an explanation.

When I wrote about technology, I frequently called sources back after interviews to read them a sentence or paragraph of what I planned to write, so they could tell me whether I’d explained their technical work in plain English. Usually I had it right, but sometimes a source would correct me or offer a nuance. This made the journalism better, and made my sources trust me more.

Next: #3 Be fair to everyone.

One comment on “2. Get it right, every time.
  1. fuwenpan says:

    Factual errors, especially ones that are easily avoidable, do more to undermine trust than almost any other failing.

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