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"Fake" News

Earmarks of Journalistic Quality

In his article, "Here's What Non-Fake News Looks Like," in the Columbia Journalism Review, Michael Schudson identifies the following as earmarks of quality journalism (Schudson's words in bold):

  • Willingness to retract, correct, and implicitly or explicitly apologize for misstatements in a timely manner. Mistakes will be made. Quality journalism will call out their errors when they are discovered and publicly correct themselves.
  • Accuracy. Get the details right: addresses; names; dates--everything. 
  • Interest in contrary evidence. We may all have biases, but quality journalism goes out of its way to challenge its own assumptions.
  • Follow the story regardless of its political implication. Regardless of personal support of a person or political figure, report the story.
  • Be calm and declarative. No hyperventilating.
  • Present multiple positions or viewpoints within a story if the topic is controversial. This doesn't mean to present every perspective ("false balance"), but those that are based on evidence.
  • Identify your sources whenever possible. Acknowledge gaps and weaknesses in the available information.
  • Use commonly accepted data and databases and reliable authorities. Statistics and data from sources that collect them for independent reasons are a good place to start, e.g., the Census, government statistical bureaus, etc.
  • Pursue evidence and leads that run counter to your hunches, passions, and preferences and, when that evidence pans out, give it appropriate attention in your story

Schudson, M. (2017, February 23). Here’s what non-fake news looks like. Columbia Journalism Review.