Wednesday, April 3, 2019

A to Z Challenge - C for Confirmation

Theme - journalism jargons
This is one of the most important tasks journalists are required to do. They are supposed to put in the public domain only information that has been verified to be correct.

The well-known adage is 'when in doubt, cut it out'. In fact, a lot of stuff that journalists get to know don't make it to print or airwaves because they can't be confirmed.

All that one hears may not be true. For example, at the scene of a crime, there will be a lot of theories and conjectures floating around. Even people who claim to be eyewitnesses, might not accurately recollect what they saw. There have been many instances when multiple witnesses have given inconsistent or even contradictory accounts.

HOW TO CONFIRM INFORMATION

That is a huge challenge. The more negative and damaging the information, the more difficult it is to confirm. It is usually senior officials, like directors, heads of departments, commissioners, ministers, etc who are approached for confirmation.

If journalists get to know that a prominent person is dead, they get confirmation from a senior hospital official or someone in the family of the deceased. The story will carry an attribution to the source of the information.

WHY CONFIRMATION IS DIFFICULT

People who are approached to confirm themselves might not be aware of what exactly happened -- they might be waiting for details to come in. So, they would not like to either confirm or deny. For example, in the case of an accident, for hours or even days, no one might know for sure what the death toll is.

It could be that officials who are in a position to confirm might not do so because they don't want to be seen as someone who confirmed the news. This happens in cases where there are allegations of impropriety against prominent personalities.

Then there are also instances when confirming news might boomerang on officials. So, to be safe, they won't talk.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND CONFIRMATION

A major problem with social media is that messages might not have been verified. They might be true or false. Institutional media (meaning, media organizations) are, as a part of the standard operating procedure, required to confirm news before it is put out.

Though there are many social media users who do verify information before putting it out, many might not do so; and even if they want to confirm, they might not be in a position to do it, unlike a professional journalist, who might have easier access to corridors of power and people in responsible positions.

(This post is a part of the "Blogging from A to Z Challenge April 2019".)

11 comments:

  1. Very interesting. I am thinking of the comment I wrote for your post Attribution. Did the PTI confirmed the accident? HeHeHe.

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    1. Thanks, Rajan. I have added another reply to your comment in the Attribution post, on why news in news agencies is considered the ultimate truth.

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  2. This is why I never believe the first notice of someone's death. They've been wrong before...

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    1. Hi Liz - Yes, we have to be very careful with news of someone's death. There is this very famous anecdote about Mark Twain reading his own obituary in one of the newspapers.

      In India, sometime in the late 1970s, I don't remember the exact year, the state broadcaster, the news of "the death" of a very senior and prominent politician, Jayaprakash Narayan, in its 2 pm news bulletin. Later it turned out that the doctors managed to revive him; and AIR had to apologize. Imagine how it would all have played out, if there was social media during those times!

      In Sept 2004, there was a similar incident regarding the passing away of India's leading nuclear scientist Raja Ramanna. I had blogged about the chaos in the newsroom. You can read about it here: http://bit.ly/2TRSozr

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  3. I've fallen behind on my blog reading! These are really well written posts. Thank you for sharing.

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  4. A nice peep into a journalist's working.It is quite a tough job-getting confirmation-no?

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  5. This is precisely why I don't get my news off social media, only from the newspapers.

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    1. Hi Nilanjana - Yes, credibility of newspapers and other institutional media have increased thanks to the lack of credibility of many messages that one finds on social media.

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  6. Hi Pradeep - we need the verification of facts and thoughts ... so much more difficult now-a-ways ... I'm not really into social media ... I'm 'floating' around on the edge! Cheers Hilary

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