Monday, March 28, 2005

MIT Tech Review Editor Lowers Bar for Web Journalists?

...The MIT Technology Review magazine recently retracted two stories on Hewlett-Packard that had already been pulled from its Web site... One story, called "Carly's Way," recounted a tale told to a freelance journalist Michelle Delio, who identified her source as a former HP engineer, a Hungarian who said his initials were G.S. He reportedly said that working for former chief executive Carly Fiorina reminded him of when he worked for a pig farmer who had been put in charge of dozens of machinists, making parts for factory machines in Hungary... But after it was posted on the MIT Technology Review Web site, HP Labs spokesman Dave Berman called up Jason Pontin, Technology Review's editor, saying he did not recognize the engineer who said he worked at HP from 1975 to 2003.

"We regret publishing the stories," Pontin said. "But the hard truth is that no Web site in the world practices print-standard fact checking."

Pontin's comment touches on just one of the reasons behind the perception of a difference in the credibility of Internet-based vs. print/broadcast based journalism. The web writers are leaving out important steps of thejournalism process.

Forget all the hub-bub surrounding bloggers and potential for libel. If "real" journalists continue to believe their work for online commercial media sources needn't meet the same threshold for truth as their print counterparts, either we're about to some lawyers find a steady new niche, or we might as well start classifying all news we see on the Internet as unconfirmed.

I understand that the web shortens news cycles, necessitating a less vigorous fact-checking process, but as far as I can tell, MIT Technology Review isn't covering breaking news on the hour. Its cycle is certainly longer than that of a daily newspaper. Long enough to check on whether a person even exists.

As to the old argument, "well, everyone else stinks too," I'd guess there's at least probably one web-based media source in whole wide world that checks its facts correctly. Or at least that hasn't published stories about made-up Hungarian pig farmers.

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  • This post makes very good points. I think with Web journalism and blogger journalism, too, as opposed to print, it's so easy to correct an error that it adds that much more pressure to sacrifice fact-checking for speed and volume.

    By Blogger SB, at 3:40 PM  

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