Friday, April 12, 2013

ACES 2013 (National Summit on Plagiarism and Fabrication)

It’s not that complicated.
Fairness and accuracy – good.
Plagiarism and fabrication – bad.

Ok, a bit simplistic…but chore fundamentals for any journalist.
In any situation there’s only one thing to do. And that is always do the right thing.

I was happy to be invited by ACES 2013 to participate in a panel discussion on the dangerous pitfalls of plagiarism and fabrication at their national conference in St. Louis this week.
The discussion centered around the pressures journalists endure in filing stories.

Some of the pressures come from managers in an increasingly competitive market.  It is certain that continuing advances in technology in distributing and sharing content add to the pressure of not “sitting on stories for too long." The so called citizen journalists who populate social media is a common culprit where the only filter seems to be the speed of their devices. Then there’s the demand of the public, whose insatiable thirst to get news and information is only matched by their need to have the story almost instantaneously!! Really? Come on, now – that’s just about the biggest myth out there.

The Lochness monster, the chupacabra, Big Foot and the public just can’t wait.  Actually, Big Foot is real, but that’s a discussion for another time. Viewers, readers and listeners don't know (and most times could care less) about breaking news. It's news to them when you deliver it. Be sure to deliver it when you are 100% sure of the content.

First be right, then be first.
There’s no price worth the credibility and integrity of the journalist. Content is our product and when we get the not so secret recipe wrong…the end result is poor, leaving a bad taste in our customer’s mouth. It only takes one time (let alone chronic mistakes) for our patrons to say, “this is terrible. This isn’t the brand for me."

Don’t leave management to managers. Please, please, please don’t do that. If you have a manager who pushes you to use anything less than the principles of journalism in approaching stories (doesn’t matter if it is breaking or not), it is your responsibility to manage up. You remind him/her about fairness and accuracy.
In the end, it’s your work. Take ownership of it.
You are the first line of defense in producing content. Yes, there are other filters that look over your work, but it begins with you.
And if you or your newsroom exercises the practice of quoting other journalists' work - don't think attribution excuses you of responsibility. The public doesn't pay attention (as much as we do) about where the content comes from. If it is in your medium (regardless of giving credit), they understand it as your work. So, when the information is incorrect - you are as culpable as the original source.
Here's an example of a breaking news event when journalism failed: the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Yes, competition, new technology and fewer resources fuel the bad practice of plagiarism and fabrication.

So, be sure to use the best resource you have....common sense.

          With AAJA president Paul Cheung


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