Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Lazy reporting leads to "professional malpractice"

After some interesting comments to my last entry, I thought Bob Steel's column at Poynter Online - http://www.poynter.org/content/content_view.asp?id=80837&sid=32 - was timely. To recap, Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom wrote a column about collegiate nostalgia and included descriptions of two former Michigan State stars attending the most recent NCAA Tournament's Final Four. Turns out the two athletes, Mateen Cleeves and Jason Richardson, weren't even at the game.

In his apology, Albom explains he wrote the column on Friday for a Sunday edition, and made assumptions they would be there based on previous interviews. The bigger problem is Albom wrote in a first-person, narrative sort of way that made it clear to readers Albom was translating an event seen specifically through his own eyes.

Steel correctly points out this kind of mistake deserves more than just an "oops." It's the egregious kind of error that shows just how gullible we journalists sometime think our readers are. Not that credibility is a favorable market for traditional journalism these days, but the preponderence of these kinds of mistakes -- and the weak excuses offered in pointless apologies -- only gives more fodder for our growing number of critics.

I freely admit sins of omission -- failing to pursue all the truth all the time. However, I can comfortably say I've never guessed on the truth and have even taken out more titilating portions of stories because I could not confirm or deny the accuracy.

3 comments:

Reg said...

Hey Gad, when you gonna unleash the fury? You've got the chops. Let the dogs off the chain, man!

Gaddabout said...

Reggie, I sent you that e-mail like 30 seconds ago and you've already posted? Nice to see work takes a back seat. Don't let Buzz see your screen. Or hear you laugh. Or breathe. In fact, just play dead. It works for bears and copy desk chiefs.

Fury? I'm just not that angry these days. Maybe if you'll say something stupid like the old days -- "OJ is the only innocent man in America" -- I might get a lather going. Or tell me again how I should give you 20 percent of my paycheck for the rest of my life because I owe you 40 acres, a mule, and 200 years of interest. Giving you my begrudging respect and a healthy sneer was never good enough. You always had my chain in hand ready to give it a good tug.

Thanks for dropping by and raising by blood pressure, Reggie. My heart needed the exercise.

F-Dog said...

This is the tip of the iceburg for Albom. Let's just say that "Wednesdays with Morrie" didn't test well...