Open minds keep stories accurate

22 Feb

Keep your mind open. It is simple advice that everyone hears from teachers and friends all the time. Keeping an open mind is critical to a good interview. The way a journalist formats questions, interprets quotes and lays out a story can all be distorted by a journalist’s bias.

In a recent story by NFL.com, the journalist used one quote to support the entire text. The story was about the Falcons and Saints recent game and the record-breaking throw of Drew Brees. Brees now holds the record for the most single-season passing yards in the NFL.  This is an example of a journalist expecting an interview to go one way and finding very little information that actually supports those expectations. The journalist, Dan Hanzus, went into that interview after the game convinced the Falcons were angry about Brees end of game heroics. What he got however was one unnamed player saying the team would not forget what the Saints had done.  Rather than change his story to match his information, Hanzus stretched that information to make it into the story he had already envisioned.  He even went so far as to use that one quote as the headline for the entire article. While other members of the team may have agreed with the quote, Hanzus had no evidence of that. So saying the whole team would not forget this moment and taking it out of context of the quote to make it the headline, is completely irresponsible.
Other news outlets dealt with the story in a very different manner . If a reporter feels there is an air of animosity because of the actions of a player, than it is fine to point that out. However, it cannot be the focus of an entire story without actual attributed quotes to back it up.

Keeping a story unwritten until you know the facts is the key to writing unbiased stories. Journalists need to let the quotes and the information gathered from sources direct the story. Personal feeling or interpretations about a situation must not color the news. Journalist’s job is to accurately report the information gathered. So, journalists must approach every assignment with an open mind.

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