If a news outlet is going to run a story that includes comments about an organization, shouldn’t the reporter contact the organization to get their side of the story and to–at the very least–make sure that what’s been said is accurate? And shouldn’t an editor be making sure this is happening so that readers get the full story? It’s Journalism 101 to me, but I’ve been running into issues along these lines a good bit lately, including one today.
The Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana ran a story that mentions ABCTE, the non-profit I do the PR for, and the article contains this quote about our program from someone in the education field there:
“It’s a test that measures minimum competency in subject areas, that is accepted in nine other states. I think it’s a slap in the face to teachers because there’s no demonstration of pedagogy and it’s a quick fix, granting license on spot.”
The quote is filled with inaccuracies and this could have been avoided had the reporter called us. Contrary to what’s stated above, ABCTE exams test for more than “minimum competency” and ABCTE actually does cover pedagogy and tests for it in the Professional Teaching Knowledge exam, which all candidates must pass before earning their certification. The program takes the average candidate 8 to 10 months to complete. It is quite rigorous. I won’t get any further into these details on the program here (anyone interested can read this blog post) because I want to get back to my main point:
All it would have taken was a phone call from the reporter and this story could have given readers a much more complete picture. And then an editor should have been asking the right questions before moving this story forward. Repairing the damage caused by misinformation can take a great deal of time and it’s unlikely you’ll reach everyone who read the initial story.
I realize that the newspaper industry is facing tough financial times and that many don’t have the staff they once did–they’re looking to get the work done by fewer people and that doesn’t always lead to the best results. But not doing the fundamental things required to make sure you give your readers an accurate, well-rounded story isn’t likely to lead to a brighter future. Pick up the phone. Send an email. Make every effort to get the story right. Readers should, if nothing else, be able to trust that a news organization has done that.