Uncritically quoting sources who are wrong? That’s wrong

Journalist Steve Buttry has an excellent post on his blog about why journalists — not sources — are to blame when news stories prove to be inaccurate.

Reporters, he writes, have an obligation to “find the truth and to verify the facts that appear important enough for us to publish” … not to shrug off errors with a Judith Miller excuse like, “If your sources are wrong, you are wrong.”

As Buttry points out, that logic is plain wrong. If your sources are wrong, it’s your job as a journalist to dig deeper and find out if that’s the case.

And why are sources wrong? Among the reasons Buttry offers:

  • “They are contemptible liars who are playing you and want to avoid accountability.

  • They are rumormongers passing along unreliable information and want to avoid accountability.

  • They are passing along second- or third-hand information that has lost some accuracy on its path to you. Whether they believe it or not, you need to verify it.”

Read the full list and the complete post here.

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