How and Why Does Verification Fail?

As the third big question in this lesson, "Why Does Verification Fail?" You may be asking yourself that with so many layers of verification that a journalist might go through in order to piece together a story, how can they still get it wrong? We’ve seen some bad examples, but also plenty of examples of journalists making a good faith effort to deliver the Truth to you as it unfolds, using direct evidence and arm’s length evidence.The highest profile journalists and those who defend the profession say it is a Discipline of Verification. If that’s true, Why does the press get things wrong?

How does that process of verification break down?

Some of those reasons include: 

  • Journalists rush to get the story first, jump the gun.
  • Facing deadline, some journalists get sloppy or provide incomplete reports
  • People (sources) give reporters incorrect information…or outright lie.


Jumping to get the story first

Competition in media is fierce, and especially so amongst the cable news outlets, who in their rush to getting the story out first, and capturing the audience, have sometimes reported the wrong information. As shown in this clip from the Daily Show following one of the first Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act at the end of June, 2012

So, in this, like many other cases, when breaking news happens -- its most likely that news outlets will get it wrong -- according to the "On The Media" Breaking News Consumers Handbook


Sloppy Journalism

In a particularly bruising example, the New York Times was caught when a story on of the most famous journalist of all time Walter Cronkite was published in 2009 after his death with a plethora of errors. 

  • Read the Story with the errors included from the
  • Read the Response from the then New York Times' Public Editor, Clark Hoyt.