Best Idea Ever: Journalism by Checklist

from morgueFile

I came across this piece today on PBS.org advocating the use of checklists to ensure accuracy in journalism. I can’t believe I’ve never seen this particular group of checklists, and I’m crazy about them. I’m going to use them myself and teach them in classes from now on. You should read the whole piece, but here are the checklists themselves:

While Reporting

  • Ask sources to spell name and title; then verify what you wrote
  • Record or transcribe interviews
  • When someone cites numbers, ask for (and check) source
  • Ask “how do you know that?”
  • Seek documentation
  • Verify claims with reliable sources
  • Save links and other research
  • Ask sources what other reports got wrong

While Writing

  • Note facts that need further verification
  • Cut and paste (with attribution) quotes from digital documents

Final Checks Before Submission

  • Numbers & math (have someone check your math)
  • Names (check vs. notes and one other source)
  • Titles (people, books etc.)
  • Locations
  • Compare quotes to notes/recording/transcript
  • Check attribution (insert link if from the web)
  • Definitions
  • Verify URLs (check them and check whether cited content is still there)
  • Phone numbers (call them)
  • Spelling & Grammar
  • Spellchecker Errors
  • Have you assumed anything? (If so, verify, hedge or remove.)
  • If you have any doubts, recheck with the original source
  • Where your understanding is weak, read the final copy to someone who does understand

 

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One comment

  1. It is amazing how effective checklists can be. I usually make one before going on vacation (you know, did you pack your passport, cancel the newspaper, etc). Microsoft word even has a place to make checklist boxes.
    For reporting, definitely a good idea.

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