Case Study 1

25 Jan

After reading the Eagle Snatches Dog article I had a lot of questions. Looking at this article as an editor I could tell immediately that many things in this story did not seem to make sense. I noticed that the facts were vague and that the story only had one source. The tone also made me doubt the integrity of the article.

Even with all of this evidence however, I never guessed that the story could have been made up. This article is the quintessential example of a story being so fun that the editor forgets the facts. Even though this story is lighthearted it still needs to be treated like any other piece of journalism that is published. Editors and journalists need to check the facts of every story and take a close look at any information they receive. Editors must be skeptical of incoming information. One way to keep sources honest is to simply ask more questions. If sources can back up their information with other sources or more details then the information is more likely to be true. The troublesome part is remembering the need for skepticism when you want something to be true that likely is not true.

If I had been the editor on this story, I would have looked into the plausibility of eagles actually picking up small dogs. I would want to know if this was happening in other places and if this was a growing issue. An ideal source would be someone knowledgeable of the local animal population. A wildlife expert could probably tell the reporter whether eagles are even capable of picking up small dogs. However, if an expert source cannot be found, reaching out to the public might work. The social networking site Quora allows journalist to reach out to people and find answers to troubling questions. I created a Quora and asked how much weight an eagle can carry. I asked this question under the assumption that any small dog would have to weigh about two pounds or more.

The question I posed on Quora was answered, but the answer was that he did not know. So I did some more searching and found that in the eagles category someone else had asked a similar question which was answered by Ricardo Dueño, a researcher.

He wrote:

“It depends on the size of the dog but if it is sufficiently small an eagle could pick up a small dog. The eagle would regard the dog as prey just like any other animal of the same size. A mature Golden Eagle, which can weigh fifteen pounds, can pick up half it’s weight a full grown mature Chihuahua weighs up to six pounds. Also puppies of most breeds weigh less than six pounds.”

So perhaps the story is possible, but is it plausible? This requires more research. Journalists must strive to not let an interesting story distract them from getting the facts. It is important to remain skeptical and to put every story through a rigorus fact-checking process.

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