Collaborating with sources might not sound like such a big deal. After all, people do it all the time.
Imagine pitching in on a group project without knowing the purpose; with no idea what the end product was going to be. That’s what it can feel like for sources when they’re interviewed for a news account.
It’s not unusual for sources to be surprised by a final story that is slightly different from the one they’d thought they were contributing to. To find that their ideas seem muddled. To feel the account, while not technically inaccurate, was slightly “off.”
So why not just have sources check the facts before we publish them? Two big reasons, at least historically: To protect the stories’ integrity and to protect a journalist’s “scoops.”
That second might not be such a big deal today, when news cycles can be measured in moments and scoops last as few as seconds, but the first remains.
While it’s not unheard of for a reporter to run a complex idea or set of figures past an expert to check for accuracy (that’s just one way journalists verify the facts that they report), it has bordered on heresy for a journalist to hand over an entire story and ask sources to tell her what they think.
Refusing prior review is one of several industry practices intended to protect journalistic values like impartiality, accountability and independence. The Gazette reporters follow that standard practice. So it’s a big deal that Kiran and Sarah, writing for We Create Here, solicit feedback from sources before publication.
It’s part of our experiment with new ways of doing journalism. Our theory is that having sources vet stories for factual accuracy and context (not whether they agree with the story or whether it makes them look good) will help us write accurate accounts with more nuance and greater confidence.
Our values are the same, as is our belief that information belongs to the public; that it shouldn’t be used as currency for private gain.
But we believe it’s possible to take a more collaborative approach to news accounts without compromising our core ethics; that doing so will help us create narratives that help develop our region’s prosperity, We Create Here’s stated mission.
Which leads us to another way We Create Here is a departure: Intentionality. More on that next week.
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