Fabrication shouldn’t be the new direction

31 Jan

It seems that fabricating stories is becoming more common in journalism. Good writing and good plots can cloud the editor’s judgement. This means editing for grammar errors is no longer the most important part of an editor’s job. Combing every story for holes and confirming every source is more important than ever before. Editors need to “cross examine” every story they print or release to the public.

Some stories, such as Eagle Snatches Dog While Owner Watches are short and it is easy to see how they could be made up. These stories still require skeptical editors to catch them. But some fabricated stories are much longer and much more detailed. It’s hard to believe some of these can be made up. It’s also hard to believe that reporters who we trust to bring us true news are very aware that they are bringing the readers completely false news.

But reporters like Jayson Blair, formerly with the New York Times, are guilty of exactly that. When looking through his stories at the New York Times, it’s hard to believe that these personal and detailed stories came solely from his imagination. The amount of details in these stories makes readers believe that the stories they are reading are true and are about real people. But editors need to look beyond the amount of personal details included and see the true story beneath them.

Another example of a fabricated story is Jimmy’s World. Jimmy’s World is written about an eight-year-old heroin addict. Jimmy’s World is also completely made up. If you were just reading the story as a casual reader, you would probably have no idea that the story is false. The story is filled with details. The quotes are lengthy and full of character. The article is personal and unique.

But if you read the story again after being warned to be skeptical of it, it becomes obvious that the story probably isn’t true. Reading through it again, the article sounds like a movie script. Some things don’t seem to fit. First of all, the only reliable sources identified never refer directly to Jimmy. They only talk about the drug situation in the area.

Another dubious fact is that Ron, the drug dealer, was identified. I don’t think many drug dealers would agree to be mentioned in a newspaper. And if he was, I don’t know if he would admit that he was the on responsible for getting the eight year old hooked on heroin. This point also makes me question how Janet Cooke, the reporter, could have gotten this family to trust her well enough for them to share these personal details. People in their situation are probably unlikely to trust many new people, nonetheless a reporter who is intending to print their story for anyone to read. It could put them in danger.

I also found a couple other details in the story pretty suspicious. First of all, very few kids in fourth grade are eight years old. This is a fact that could have easily been checked by editors. Also, at the end, Cooke describes Jimmy actually shooting up. I find it very doubtful that the family would have allowed her to remain there while this happened. On top of that, Cooke allowing it happen in front of her brings her ethics into question for me.

Overall, this trend goes to show me how important it is for editors to be even more skeptical than ever before. Critical thinking and double checking every fact can go a long way to end these fabricated stories.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: