Posted by: Caitlin Cavanaugh | October 4, 2010

Mistakes can be the death of a journalist

Harrower would have gotten an F this week for his accident brief exercise. As a student that has been taught that a mistake in information or spelling will learn us a failing grade on the assignment I was surprised to see an exercise in the text book make that mistake.

Harrower has typed up a few details from a real news story that ran a few years ago, but during the What Happened section he said “Sans attempted to climb down to the creek but fell, injuring her leg.” For those who read everything previous to that they would know that Sans was one of the teenagers on the creek bed and that Sans was a male, not a female.

This mistake in one of the book assignments has taught me how important spelling and accuracy is when writing a news story. As soon as I saw the jarring mistake I couldn’t help but start to discount the rest of the story, even though it was just an exercise in the book.

In all reality it’s the credibility of the journalist that makes them a good writer and keeps the readers well informed. Without the trust of the readers a journalist has no power.

For the past month I have been told this over and over again and although I knew it was important before, I now have an extra incentive to keep everything I saw accurate.

I would hate for my readers to see something like that and then discount everything I had written, especially when it’s a mistake that is so easily fixed. It makes me wonder if Harrower did it on purpose to see if the students doing the exercises would pick up on it or if it really was a mistake that I’ve been trained to find.

Either way it forced me think about mistakes that are made in journalism and I am going to work hard to keep my stories accurate and to spell everything correctly. Credibility is important in journalism and without it readers would never trust what was in newspapers.

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