Responsible Journalism

Neal Pattison / June 2006

Staying out of the penalty box
Recognizing pitfalls … every step of the way

• Are we overstating the impact or scope of a story?
• Are we serving the needs of the news cycle instead of the reader?
• Are we allowing the urgency of breaking news to divert us from an important story?
• Are we identifying a trend based on flimsy assumptions or popular perceptions?
• Are we responding to the influence of newsmakers, sources or even journalism colleagues?

• Do we challenge ourselves to confirm the facts we cite or assert?
• Do we "write around" factual holes or specifics missing from our stories?
• Do we pass off "minor" mistakes (spellings, dates) as insignificant?
• Do we have a clear notion offaimess balance?
• Do we work to have a diversity of sources?

• How do we get answers to our questions about style and grammar?
• Which reference materials do we keep within arm's reach?
• When is it OK to place style ahead of clarity?
• Do we ever use common words and phrases that we can't define with certainty?
• Can you quote three facts you learned from the AP Stylebook?

• Do our headlines give readers the right message about story content and tone?
• Do we have the same standards for the accuracy of photos, graphics and cutlines as we have for stories and headlines? Do we consider it plagiarism to copy an idea for a layout or illustration?
• How do we resolve the conflict when a photographer's work does not mirror the content of a reporter's story?
• Can we clearly explain which kinds of words and images are not acceptable for our publication or organization - and why?

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