I was just reading an article from the Web Site http://www.stuffjournalistslike.com/ entitled “Being Duped,” which discusses the common journalistic problem of inaccurate and/or misleading sources. In the article, the writer says that journalists – while otherwise astute – can often be deceived by a source because the advent of a good scoop is so alluring.
I can understand the argument here, because I personally find it very exciting when I find a seemingly reliable source to interview – my story is read to take flight. But at the same time, that very eagerness is what makes me – and other journalists, I would imagine – often forget to even question where a given source is getting his or her information, or if it’s even relevant in the first place.
This is something I definitely need to start being more careful about, because I would rather not have to learn from experience that screening potential interviewees beforehand is the sensible and prudent thing to do.
It’s scary to think that someone would be directly trying to deceive a journalist, especially when it’s a “normal” citizen, not an authority figure, government employee or anyone else with an overtly apparent agenda. But unfortunately, this does happen, so it’s more fruitful to figure this kind of thing out as early as possible than to just naively assume that everyone is going to be telling you the truth.
Of course, that brings up the issue of exactly how this should be accomplished, which is a whole other topic entirely. But I think it’s just important to raise awareness about this kind of all-too-common journalistic pitfall, and I know I will be more careful in the future about who I interview.