It’s been a busy week in the digital blunders department. Deadspin’s expose on Manti Te’o’s non-existent girlfriend is shocking for the simple fact that all it took was some old fashioned fact-checking. That the Gawker Media sports blog “without access, favor, or discretion” scooped traditional sports media like Sports Illustrated and ESPN, among others, is a big deal — and a rather simple one.
It’s J-School 101. Always ask questions, ask until you get a real answer, and make sure you have real facts, dates and numbers, to back up your claim. Of course, it’s easy to look back and see where everything spiraled out of control. The online news world is exciting, fast paced, and usually effective. It’s easy to spread a good story online; it’s now twice as hard to make sure it’s true.
Here’s a quick refresher:
1. Follow The Links
In the digital age, it’s safe to say that most journalists will repost, retweet and report on a story if enough media outlets are linking to it. As long as there are enough outlets reporting on a story and those outlets are credible, it can seem safe to pass it along. But don’t we all know that feeling of finding yourself in a link loop? One blog links to a story and that link leads us to another story and another one linking back to the same quote and then you find yourself back at the first story, never getting to a real source? It’s easy to call off the search when the original “breaking news” post is on a questionable or obscure news source. It’s not so easy when the “facts” comes from a Sports Illustrated cover story (oh, to be a fly on that wall today!) or ESPN.