How to publish credible information online while news is breaking

by Vicki Krueger
Jan 14, 2011 in Digital Journalism

In the aftermath of mistakes made while covering the shootings in Arizona, media organizations may re-examine their practices and policies for ensuring accuracy. Does your news org have updated guidelines, standards or policies for making decisions during breaking news? A 2009 study by the Associated Press Managing Editors (APME) found that many newsrooms have standards for their print reports, but few policies address digital delivery.

Sioux City Journal Editor Mitch Pugh led an APME Online Journalism Credibility Project that explored issues in publishing breaking news online. Here are some of the questions he encourages every newsroom to ask before making information public.

Ethics questions

  • “Official” information vs. independent reporting: When do you go with either?
  • Scanner traffic: Do you report what you hear on a scanner?
  • When do you name someone? How do you source the name? Do you name them before “official” sources have released the name(s) and, if so, under what circumstances? Does it matter if the person is a juvenile?
  • What kind of video/photos are appropriate in a breaking news setting? How do you handle juveniles, crime victims and others in those media?
  • What are the expectations for how we will treat juveniles involved in breaking news, especially in the age of Google?

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