As a journalist, I am only as good as my reputation. In fact, as a person, my reputation speaks about who I am — good or bad. I am now the editor with the Daily Times and while I’ve met some wonderful people in my short stint so far, most of our readers don’t know me personally, so I have to lean on my reputation to set an example for anyone who I haven’t had the privilege to meet.
As a general rule of thumb, everyone should be concerned with their reputation. Once someone has stained their image, it’s difficult to recover. Journalists should be even more careful with their reputations. Everyday, we use the written word to tell stories, which impact our readers. Any good journalist should only have one goal in mind — write a fair and balanced story, and always strive for the truth.
So while telling the truth is important, how do we achieve that goal? The answer is simple — attribution. Every well-rounded journalist relies on the testimony of an eye witness, which is essentially a first-person account of what really took place. For example, if a crash occurs, a journalist can write a story without ever stepping foot at the crash site. They will speak with local responders and attribute those details of the story to the emergency personnel at the scene of the accident.
Attribution is key in journalism. It separates fact from speculation, which brings me to my point — unverified sources.
I obviously have a political affiliation. It’s hard to be in the news business and not pay attention to politics. And yes, I have strict views on our health care, spending, foreign policy, and so on; however, those views have never swayed me from doing my job once I clock in for work.
On most days, I select our political cartoon for the Daily Times Editorial page. I’ve selected cartoons depicting our current president in a negative connotation and I’ve selected cartoons which have done the same to the president-elect. My political views haven’t swayed me nor has my employer taken a political stance of any kind, which is so refreshing. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for other news organizations.
Tuesday, news reports surfaced that said Russia had collected compromising information on President-Elect Donald Trump. If that’s true, I’ll admit that’s terrifying. However, the New York Times and CNN cited “unnamed officials” in their stories.
Does that make anyone feel better? An unnamed official came forward. I for one am relieved they had the guts to come forward and put their name on a statement that they feel that confident in backing up.
Oh but it gets better. The “news” site (and I use that term loosely) BuzzFeed published a 35-page document that contained unverified documents.
The editor of that site said, “but publishing this dossier reflects how we see the job of reporters in 2017.”
I have news for BuzzFeed and anyone else who reflects this type of cavalier attitude — the job of reporters in 2017 is to report the truth, supported by substantiated facts that can be verified and attributed. Hold yourself to a higher standard or your reputation will never recover.
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1927, or on Twitter @crslone.