The print version of the article hit the newsstands the day after the interview. The digital version was live only hours after the reporter wrapped up her questions.
My kind of reporting — immediate. But with that kind of turnaround also comes the potential for mistakes.
I knew the potential so I carefully pointed out the misunderstandings made by other reporters earlier in the day, but she made other errors.
And I will admit it was frustrating to see my name in print as having said something I did not say and having described something in words I would never use.
Plus everyone personally acquainted with the story knew what was incorrect in the article, so my pride kicked in because I feared they wouldn’t know it was a reporting error and would think it was my mistake.
I had a decision to make. Would I contact the reporter and yell at her or would I think about the situation calmly and be part of the solution rather than create more havoc?
Being a journalist and knowing what it is like to be on the other side of the situation, I decided to be part of the solution.
Yes, she made mistakes in the reporting, so she needed to correct the information.
That’s where I started.
Correcting the facts
I emailed her to thank her for covering the story and turning it around so quickly. I also noted that I understand the difficulty of trying to grasp every angle of a story in a matter of about 30 minutes, then write a story on it in less than two hours.
It is similar to being assigned a research topic in school — something you are not personally familiar with — and having to crank out a summary of the most important points of the topic in a few hours.
Yes, those who carry the reporter title have (or should have) been trained to do the job and are more versatile than most to know which parts of the story are vital and which can be left out. But it is still a tremendous amount of pressure to reconcile in your own mind what exactly the story is and then to relay all the points with perfect factual accuracy.
Focusing on the facts
And you also have the challenge of knowing for sure who the expert is on the subject and who isn’t as well as working to keep the source on topic so you don’t get distracted with unnecessary pieces of information.
Print journalists have an advantage over broadcast journalists because they have a little more time to verify the facts of the story and work to gain a better understanding, but in all news reporting cases, time is extremely limited.
My recent personal experience with being misquoted reminded me of how grateful I am when those we report on in Baptist life take the time to provide information for us in advance so we have a better chance of reporting accurately.
It also helps to have the basic who, what, when, where, why and how spelled out in a fact sheet or news release of some sort to save us time chasing down those basic bits of information.
I also realize how all of us can improve our communication in general by remembering that those outside our bubbles cannot understand the parts of the stories we are living at the same level we do. Using slang terms makes for insider language others might misinterpret. Leaving out important details or making assumptions also causes confusion.
Telling our stories clearly and succinctly — and showing a bit of grace — goes a long way for the greater good.
—Jennifer Davis Rash