October 30, 2002

Quote fishing…

Last night I posted a response to Jack Shafer’s article about the AP reporter fired for fabricating quotes. MediaMinded has posted his thoughts this morning and called the article “one of the best insider looks at the newsgathering process I’ve read in a while.” I agree. The article points out a problem with deadline pressure and the expectations of editors.

As I said, this situation is an excellent example of fairness bias. What I meant by that was that this situation demonstrates what happens when the fairness bias is applied to a news story by rote, i.e. the structure of the article becomes more important than the content. And this privileging of structure is a problem in journalism. By definition, an article that does not present “both sides” of a story is a bad article. Editors often put tremendous pressure on reporters to get certain kinds of quotes during the editing process–usually on deadline, meaning at the last minute. So, many reporters are forced to go fishing for quotes in exactly the way Shafer describes.

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