There’s a controversy over reporters sharing drafts of their stories with the subjects of the stories. It’s quite serious, having to do with the pressure of the 24 hour news cycle and the inability of newspapers to edit that properly, as well as the ADD of new media reporters. Ceding editing to PR people is — sue me if I’m wrong — probably not journalism’s best idea.
But as usual, the hotttttttest dirt is in the comments to the stories. This, friends, is the Paddy Chayevsky “I’m mad as hell and I ain’t taking it anymore” “Network” script of the 21st century. Imaginary sources! This takes Deep Throat to a Whole Nother Realm. This is from the comments to the story linked to. Oh! I am….slavering. …http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/post/post-reporter-criticized-for—-checking-his-facts/2012/07/25/gJQA9Yot8W_blog.html#comments

Washington Post higher education reporter Daniel de Vise.

Janis Sartucci makes the comment elsewhere, and says she is associated with a local public school parents’ association.
jzsartucci   7/25/2012 1:51 PM MDT
In 2009, Mr de Vise wrote, and The Washington Post printed, an article based on a fictitious person as if the person were real. Mr. de Vise stated that he never spoke to the person on the phone and never met the person, but completely relied on e-mails to write the story. The person was attacking a very active parent group in Montgomery County. The parent group was able to show that the e-mails were coming from a school system IP address. However, Mr de Vise did not state that fact in the article and quoted the fictitious person as if she were real. The e-mails were coming from someone within the public school system or with access to a public school system computer. Yet, the article did not have a response from the public school system to this fact. If, the writer of these e-mails was the school systems public relations department or an administrator, that means that the school system was able to trick the Washington Post into writing an article by using a fictitious parent to attack other parents. Score 1 for the public school system! But, what does this say about The Washington Post and their fact checking?
The following is the only good argument I’ve seen for sharing drafts, and I’d love to hear more from Tom Ricks on how to use the technique to extract quotes from the unindicted co-conspirator Rumsfeld’s spokesmodels at the Pentagon:
And others stand by it, including Washington Post reporter Jay Mathews and former Washington Post reporter Tom Ricks, now a contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine and a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. He writes the following thumbs-up via e-mail:

[W]hen I was at the Post, I used to e-mail drafts to sources all the time. I never felt like I was subjecting myself to pressure. Rather, I used it to pressure sources, especially recalcitrant or hostile ones — which pretty much described the people around [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld. I would say something like, “Here is where I am going. Speak now or forever hold your peace.”

I saw nothing wrong with the practice. It showed sources that I was serious about getting it right — and also would go to press whether or not they cooperated. It often resulted in getting more facts and more accuracy. I think the practice should be encouraged.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/post/brauchli-signals-brake-on-previews-of-story-drafts/2012/07/26/gJQAmjOOBX_blog.html

Advertisements