Striving for accuracy
Journalism is about telling true stories. That’s what we try to do at the Sun Star. We tell stories about what is happening in the UAF world, whether they develop at a Board of Regents meeting or an event in the Wood Center.
As editor, I strive to make sure those stories are accurate and engaging. We try to write about things that are interesting and relevant, and we try to do a good job on those stories. I read every story before it goes to print, often more than once. So does the copy editor, and occasionally another set of eyes. But usually the hour is late, the action is frantic and sometimes, we miss things. We are human.
Recently, we ran a story with a narrative opening that misidentified someone. I like narratives in a story because they are compelling, but they require more trust in the accuracy of the content, so I’m sometimes wary of them. I’m careful about using them, and I expect our reporters to be careful when they write them. The one we published a few weeks ago didn’t reflect that caution, and we got it wrong.
I could have double-checked with the reporter that he had talked to the source he named, but I didn’t. The copy editor also could have asked the reporter, but he didn’t. Unfortunately, the reporter didn’t double-check either, so he included in his story unconfirmed information based on an e-mail he misremembered. It was a mistake, and an unfortunate one.
The business of telling true stories requires trust; between reporters, editors, sources and our readers. I know that when we make a mistake, that trust is compromised. In a student newspaper (any newspaper, for that matter), errors are inevitable. We do our best to minimize them but they are going to occur. When they do, we try to correct our mistakes.
But we can’t fix errors if we don’t know what they are.
If we didn’t catch an incorrect title or fact while editing a story, it’s unlikely that we’ll notice after the paper is printed. We have to trust that our readers will tell us about them.
We learn nothing (and fix nothing) if you simply complain to the people in your office. And we don’t learn much if you complain to the journalism department without bringing up your problems with someone on my staff or myself.
E-mail us, call us, comment online or write us a letter. Stop by the office if you like, but be specific. If you tell me the paper is often inaccurate, there isn’t much I can do. But if you tell me about a specific error you find, we’ll correct it if we need to and be much less likely to let it happen again.