Improving Reliability: A frank talk about errors, plagiarism and fabrication in newsrooms

By Marina Demartini, University of Missouri student

Journalists learn about ethics in school and in the newsroom, but cases of plagiarism and fabrication of facts still happen in the field.

Michael Oreskes, senior managing editor of the Associated Press; Marilyn Thompson, Reuters Washington bureau chief; and, via Skype, Teresa Schmedding, the president American Copy Editors Society discussed this issue on the last day of ASNE's 2013 convention.

The panel's the moderator, Reuters columnist Jack Shafer, asked the speakers about ethics in journalism and how journalists can work together to find a solution for plagiarism and fabrication in newsrooms. For Oreskes, plagiarism is a violation of what's most important in journalism, the truth. Schmedding said the difference between journalists and bloggers who write from their basements is the journalistic credibility.

The panelists discussed forces that cause a journalist to plagiarize. "Psychological pressures are real things in our profession, and you have to think about it when you are talking about fabrication in newsrooms," Thompson said.

The panelists also sought solutions. Schmedding said the main issue is that most companies don't talk about fabricating news. She said a change in the editing process is necessary. Oreskes said the problem is not concentrated in the editors, but in all journalists. He said journalists need to remember that being credible is fundamentally important. Being accurate, being truthful and being credible is what differentiates journalists from all the random facts on the Internet, he said.

Because of the Internet and social media, more people have access to information, Shafer said. Journalism loses credibility when stories of plagiarism and fabrication surface.

"One of the tasks of the next journalists is rebuilding the credibility of journalism," Oreskes said. "They have to do this by being accurate, by being honest, by correcting mistakes, and by being vigilant about plagiarism and corruption. We have to police our own industry."

Minority Leadership Institute

By Aline Barros, University of Maryland student

The Minority Leadership Institute, held in conjunction with ASNE's 2013 convention and hosted by ASNE and the American Press Institute, provided leadership and management training to 16 mid-level editors and business executives from news organizations around the country.

The institute's goal is to increase the representation of minorities at newspapers.

"We want to make sure there is an equal representation of minorities in the newsrooms," said Alfredo Carbajal, managing editor of Al Día/The Dallas Morning News and co-chair of ASNE's Diversity Committee.

Carbajal said there's a lack of diversity in leadership at newspapers and that ASNE plans to help and train a successful group of diverse editors.

"We want to be able to help you with development from the leadership perspective to help you get better to be the top editor at a newsroom somewhere," Carbajal said.

Although the number of minorities in the U.S. is growing, the percentage of minorities in newsrooms is not. ASNE's latest newsroom census, released Tuesday, showed that for the past decade, the percentage of minorities in newsrooms has been between 12 percent and 13 percent.

The Minority Leadership Institute can help change these numbers. The new ASNE president, David Boardman, said in his speech at the ASNE annual meeting that they plan to expand the minority leadership program to provide training to minorities.

Learn more at the ASNE website


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