Articles about "Accuracy Tips"


Bullying is not on the rise and it does not lead to suicide

Every other month or so a story about a child bullied until he or she commits suicide rises into our national consciousness.

This month it’s Rebecca Sedwick from Lakeland, Fla.

Before that it was Gabrielle Molina of Queens. And before that it Asher Brown.

All suicides are tragic and complicated. And teen suicides are particularly devastating because as adults we recognize all that lost potential.

Yet, in perpetuating these stories, which are often little more than emotional linkbait, journalists are complicit in a gross oversimplification of a complicated phenomenon. In short, we’re getting the facts wrong.

The common narrative goes like this: Mean kids, usually the most popular and powerful, single out and relentlessly bully a socially weaker classmate in a systemic and calculated way, which then drives the victim into a darkness where he or she sees no alternative other than committing suicide.

And yet experts – those who study suicide, teen behavior and the dynamics of cyber interactions of teens – all say that the facts are rarely that simple. And by repeating this inaccurate story over and over, journalists are harming the public’s ability to understand the dynamics of both bullying and suicide.

People commit suicide because of mental illness.… Read more


Reynolds Center for Business Journalism creates accuracy checklist for journalists

Here’s a little exercise for you.

Who is this man?

Yes, of course, it’s Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the hero pilot who landed a troubled airplane on the Hudson River back in 2009.

This one’s a bit more difficult. Who is this man?

That’s Jeff Skiles, the co-pilot.

I use this exercise in workshops (and blog posts), in part because it shows how history has room for only one man from that small cockpit. It also offers an unlikely opportunity for me to preach the virtues of the checklist.

While Sully was busy at the controls, Skiles was engaged in something just as important: he was using an engine restart checklist to ensure they followed the proper procedures. He also used a different checklist to help them land on water.

I’ve been preaching the value of checklists for years now. My primer on checklists is here, and you can download my free accuracy checklist here. I’ve also created a collection of other people’s checklists, which you can view and download.

If you really want to understand the value and amazing power of checklists, you should read “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande, and his related New Yorker piece.… Read more


Our brains resist correction, but there are ways to break through

It’s taken a couple of months, but the New America Foundation is in the process of releasing interesting and useful research papers created for a December fact-checking event hosted by the organization.

I wrote about that gathering, and one that preceded it at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in November. But there was a lot I couldn’t share from the December event, because it was held under Chatham House Rule, and the papers prepared for the gathering were not yet public. Now at least two of those papers are available for free.

Earlier this week, I linked to a fascinating paper that lays out the origins and current state of political fact checking. Now the paper I was most looking forward to has been released [PDF]. Best of all, Columbia Journalism Review adapted it into an article, “Countering Misinformation: Tips for Journalists.”

The paper is the work of two researchers, Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler. (Nyhan is also writing about the 2012 campaign for CJR.) They have been doing important work to help explain why people are susceptible to misinformation, and why it’s hard to convince us to change our minds once we’ve taken hold of a view.… Read more


How The New York Times’ corrections tracker improves accuracy

How do you handle a reporter who’s making more mistakes than usual?

The New York Times recently confronted this issue with a regular freelancer whose corrections total was spiking.

Greg Brock, the Times senior editor who oversees corrections, was able to detect and ultimately address the issue because the paper is one of a handful of media organizations that track errors and corrections in an internal database.

The details of this mini case study was contained in a new column about errors and corrections from Times public editor Arthur Brisbane. His piece details how the paper handles mistakes and how it works to prevent them. Brisbane also offers a nice precis by Scott Maier, the top newspaper accuracy researcher working today. (Brisbane quotes me in the column, too. We spoke by phone last week at his request.)

So, why was that Times freelancer generating more corrections than in the past? From Brisbane’s column:

Upon inquiry, Mr. Brock learned that the freelancer was getting work — perhaps too much work — from multiple desks. The Times cut the assignments back, and the errors subsided.

As a longtime freelancer, I sympathize with this journalist. If The New York Times is feeding you a lot of work, chances are you’ll keep saying yes.… Read more

Audit Commission

New campaign offers tips to help journalists get their numbers straight

Thanks to a campaign from the U.K.’s Royal Statistical Society, journalists now have access to a great collection of tips to help them report numbers accurately.

Former journalist David Walker is the director of Getstats, the Society’s campaign to improve statistical literacy, and he has set part of his sights on newsrooms.

David Walker

The organization recently released 12 “rules of thumb for journalists” to help them do a better job handling numbers. The tips for “numbers hygiene” include “sniff around” and ask, “out of how many?” also has a related story that offers additional tips to help journalists avoid five common pitfalls related to numbers.

In keeping with the spirit of numeracy, I wrote a previous column that shared advice from Sarah Cohen, author of the book, “Numbers in the Newsroom: Using Math and Statistics in News.”

I also followed up with Walker to learn more about the motivation behind Getstats and to tease out a few more tips from him. Here’s our edited exchange.

Poynter: Why do you think journalists struggle with numbers?

David Walker: In the UK, it’s a matter of training and aptitude. Too few media courses insist on even basic statistical literacy — but we’re working to change that and a lot of journalism educators are on side.… Read more


5 tips for getting photo IDs right

Mistaken identifications are among the most common photo errors I see corrected by the media. People in photos have either been mislabeled internally or by a photo or wire service, or someone hasn’t checked the image to verify it’s showing who they think it does.

A case in point: this Monday correction in The Independent

In our print edition of Friday 3 February we ran a photograph of an actor named David Bradley under the heading “stars who have slipped.” We very much regret that we used a photograph of the wrong David Bradley and that the David Bradley we pictured is still enjoying a highly successful career, including playing Argus Filch, the caretaker in the Harry Potter films.

This is a bit tricky, as the photo was in fact of an actor named David Bradley — it was just the wrong David Bradley.

Then there are other photo mistakes that on their face seem less clear and forgivable. Here’s a February correction from The Daily Mirror:

DUE to an error in yesterday’s report concerning the fatal shooting of Alan McNally, the photograph on page 1 purporting to depict the late Alan McNally was in fact of another man who is not involved in any of the matters referred to in the report.

Read more

Students offer new rules for accurate journalism

In a column last year for Columbia Journalism Review I tried to put some journalism cliches to good use by offering a series of tips and rules to help journalists create accurate work. The idea was to boil accuracy advice down to the essentials, and I ended up with a list of eight rules. Here are three of them:

The initial, mistaken information will be retweeted more than any subsequent correction. I’ve started calling this the Law of Incorrect Tweets. The point is to emphasize that a piece of misinformation is often far more appealing and interesting than the subsequent correction. People are therefore more inclined to retweet or like a false news report than to pay attention to any subsequent correction. Be careful with the information that gets pushed out, and be diligent about repeatedly offering a correction. This is especially true with social media, but the principle — invest time in spreading corrections — is universal.

Verification before dissemination. Our job is to apply the discipline of verification to everything we gather. That means checking what a source tells you before putting it out there. It means holding off on that hot bit of news to make an extra phone call or bit of checking before sending it out.

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Copy editors’ advice for the new year: ‘Slow down’

Two editors recently shared some useful tips to help journalists detect and prevent mistakes. A selection of their advice is below, and be sure to read both articles.

I’ll add to the offerings by pointing to my free downloadable accuracy checklist. Want to know why I’m such an advocate for checklists? You can read more in this post. It includes a basic overview, as well some slides and a liveblog of a workshop I gave at American University. I also recommend this post from Steve Buttry, which includes his own version of a checklist.

Copy Editing Tips

The first bit of accuracy advice comes from Pam Nelson, who writes the Grammar Guide blog for the American Copy Editors Society. She offered 10 tips for copy editors, though they can also be applied to writers. Writers should use a personal accuracy checklist to review their work before passing it to an editor. The reality is newsrooms have fewer sets of eyes checking each piece of copy, so it’s more essential than ever to be a great self editor.

Among the items Nelson says editors (and writers!) need to check are: spelling of names and places, dates, numbers and math.… Read more


Three tips for avoiding errors when dealing with archival content

Archives can be dangerous territory for journalists. Searching in databases or a newspaper’s morgue can provide essential background and perspective for current coverage. But it can also lead to errors and other offenses.

This December correction from the Kalgoorlie Miner of Western Australia highlights some of the many challenges journalists and others face when relying on archival content:

IN TUESDAY’S Goldfields History page, we wrote about a shooting incident 50 years ago in which two men died in Hoover Street, Leonora.

The original news article published the names of the two men, one 16 years old and the other 22, which at the time was the style of the newspaper.

The article also mentioned the name of a 14-year-old girl who was shot in the incident.

We acknowledge it is culturally inappropriate to mention in full the names of deceased indigenous people and the name of any juvenile under the age of 16.

Laverton Senior Aboriginal police liaison officer Rex Weldon contacted the Kalgoorlie Miner and we thank him for bringing it to our attention.

We apologise to the woman mentioned in the article, as well as relatives and friends of the deceased.

In this case, the paper wrongly repeating the names of juveniles, and failed to account for a specific cultural sensitivity with Australia’s Aboriginal community.… Read more