Verification as a strategic ritual : how journalists retrospectively describe processes for ensuring accuracy

Authors: Shapiro, Ivor; Brin, ColetteBédard-Brûlé, Isabelle; Mychajlowycz, Kasia
Abstract: While a concerted quest for accuracy is seen by many journalists as central to their professional identity, informal rules of practice for achieving news accuracy are elusive and highly nuanced. We conducted post hoc qualitative interviews with 28 semi-randomly selected Canadian journalists working for French- and Englishlanguage newspapers; each journalist reconstructed in detail the process of verification used in reporting a single newspaper story. Findings suggest considerable diversity in verification strategies, at times mirroring social scientific methods (source triangulation, analysis of primary data sources or official documents, semiparticipant observa- tion), and different degrees of reflexivity or critical awareness of journalists’ own blind spots and limitations. Most interviewees expressed passionate support for the norm of verification, but described a range of pragmatic compromises when selecting various types of facts for, and when conducting, verification. Proper names, numbers and some other concrete details were verified with greater care than some other types of factual statement. On the other hand, statements were frequently relayed, with or without attribution, based on a single subject’s word. We also observed that verification cannot easily or consistently be identified as a distinct process within the normal course of reporting: rather, the relationship between the reporting and verification processes may often be circular, and some verification rests in knowledge derived from a reporter’s earlier work.
Document Type: Article de recherche
Issue Date: 5 February 2013
Open Access Date: Restricted access
Document version: VoR
This document was published in: Journalism Practice, Vol. 7 (6), 657–673 (2013) 10.1080/17512786.2013.765638
Alternative version: 10.1080/17512786.2013.765638
Collection:Articles publiés dans des revues avec comité de lecture

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