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Verification in Journalism

Journalism is the art form in which verification matters most. It is simultaneously creative and informative, but accurate. Truth and correctness are valued by its readers, but journalists struggle to be “objective” in a world where opinions more common than truths. Objectivity, in its origin, was supposed to refer to the way a journalist figured out information scientifically. It was about method rather than worrying about one’s own personal opinions or biases. It’s impossible to write an article and not insert at least a little of your own personal viewpoints. Verification comes in handy when trying to remain consistent with the writer’s own journalist method. A common problem with a lot of journalists is picking sources because they match the writer’s own opinion. This is a form of bias. Reporters are self-serving their own viewpoints if they go out of the way to choose sources that back up their own viewpoints. Readers want to see a variety of news sources cited in an article, or a variety of different people interviewed. This is where the journalist’s method becomes significant. Is the writer going to take an opportunity to make their opinion look like fact or are they going to stick to a truthful method of information extraction? Good journalists do not have to be explicitly concerned with inserting their opinion into the style of writing; they should be concerned with the way they get information in the first place.

The importance of verification can be noticed in any basic news story. Browsing multiple news sites is necessary because of the varying methods that journalists use. Some news sites, like FOX News, are notorious for committing the journalistic evil of only including sources that help their argument or support the “facts” they may be reporting. Pulling up FOX News’ website reveals a large cover story on Vice Presidential Nominee Paul Ryan attacking Obama’s foreign policy plan and stating that it is “unraveling”. Is this the most significant news story today? That issue itself is debatable, but does the content pass basic verification standards? What sources to they use to insure their credibility? Their logo boats “fair and balanced” but what news source can claim this entirely? In the headline, they quote someone as saying that Romney’s foreign policy plan is “strength” while Obama’s is “unraveling”. In fact, the first source they mention is a televised episode of Fox News Sunday. They are supporting their news article with information from a televised news program of the same vein. This is not exactly objectivity in terms of method. They are biased in their source extraction. The reader is supposed to take in the story as fact, but the issue itself is one of opinion; foreign policy is a heavily debated issue in the United States, especially after the attacks in Libya.

Glancing over Fox News’ website is an easy lesson in verification and a reminder to the public audience that is it so very important to get news from a variety of sources. Even if the journalist’s method of extracting news is unreliable, don’t make yours that way.

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