The Huffington Post has published standards for citizen journalism.
It is, in essence, some of the basics taught in Newswriting 101 classes across the nation.
Case in point:
1. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE CHECKED FOR SPELLING AND GRAMMATICAL ERRORS.
One of the items on the list, however, is something that even “professional” journalists sometimes forget to do.
4. IF YOU MAKE A NEGATIVE, FACT-BASED ASSERTION A PERSON OR ORGANIZATION, YOU NEED TO REACH THAT PERSON OR ORGANIZATION FOR COMMENT.
Just a few weeks ago, I watched a local TV newscast lead with a story on a BOCES tutor accused of having sex with a student. At no point did the reporter even mention trying to get a comment from the tutor or the tutor’s lawyer.
How does that happen?
I can guess how. You are putting together a story on deadline. Parents and school officials are easy to reach. The accused is not so easy. But that doesn’t mean journalists shouldn’t try to reach the accused and let the news audience know that.
Congrats to the Huffington Post for making its standards clear and explaining some basics of journalism to those who didn’t go to J-School but want to report. Making these processes clear can only help journalism.