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Journalism Ethics

Should TV News Have On-Air Fact Checkers?

controlroom_304x200On the heels of CBS News and NBC News misidentifying the Navy Yard shooter, USA Today‘s Rem Rieder argues television news should take a cue from ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” and employ on-air fact checkers:

Television has never been very good at pointing out its errors. Newspapers generally have corrections sections. Many news websites will not only correct mistakes in copy, they will also note that the original version was incorrect. But TV news has been a laggard when it comes to setting the record straight.

And the idea of pointing out the mistakes on the program where they took place is perfect for the digital age. While newspapers have to wait until the following day to run their corrections, websites can and should fix mistakes as soon as they’re discovered.

As [ESPN's Tony] Kornheiser says, “If you get something wrong, you ought to correct it right on the spot.” After all, if you don’t, others will. When news outlets make mistakes, particularly on high-profile stories, you can be sure that many readers and viewers will take to Twitter to point them out.

WLNE Takes ‘Appropriate Internal Action’ After Publishing Story With Factual Errors, Improper Attribution

Providence ABC affiliate WLNE has retracted a story about health violations at local restaurants after the station “mistakenly misconstrued some of the facts” and failed to give a local website credit for its reporting, WLNE general manager Chris Tzianabos tells TVSpy.

GoLocalProv.com reported Friday on restaurants in the Providence area with the highest number of health violations. The piece reported on citations at restaurants across the region and included a slideshow of the top 25 restaurants with the highest number of violations.

In WLNE’s story on the health violations, which included no attribution to GoLocalProv, the station reported “25 of the city’s restaurants have health violations.” For the original article, GoLocalProv inspected data from the past three years and found the number of restaurants with violations was more than twice that. WLNE also reported that a restaurant called Il Fornello had 7 violations, which was the fewest in the region. GoLocalProv said “there were numerous restaurants in the city that had less than 7 violations.”

“GoLocalProv invested time, energy and money to develop a public interest investigative story that reported on the health violations in Providence restaurants. We were extremely careful with reporting the data. ABC6 plagiarized the story,” Josh Fenton, CEO and co-founder of GoLocalProv.com’s parent company, said in a statement. “Even worse, in their haste to rewrite the story, it contained statements that are incorrect.”

The story has been removed from the WLNE website.

“ABC6 posted a story on abc6.com late Friday evening on a Department of Health report on health violations of local restaurants which inappropriately included facts from a GoLocalProv.com article. In addition to failing to give GoLocalProv.com proper credit, ABC6 mistakenly misconstrued some of the facts. We regret our mistake and we have taken appropriate internal action,” Tzianabos told TVSpy.

KLAS Reporter Faces Discipline After Failing to Disclose Ties to Church She Reported On

KLAS reporter Sharie Harvin is facing disciplinary action at the Las Vegas CBS affiliate after failing to disclose her ties to a church featured in one of her reports.

KLAS news director Ron Comings told TVSpy that Harvin was assigned a reaction story to yesterday’s Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage. After contacting more than 10 religious leaders for the story, Harvin told Comings that she was unable to find one willing to participate in the report except her own pastor at the Nehemiah Ministries Christian Church.

Comings signed off on the decision to quote Harvin’s pastor without knowing that Harvin helps the church with publicity and is listed on the website as Nehemiah Ministries’ director of public relations. The report did not mention Harvin’s involvement with the church.

“I think we probably wouldn’t have done it if we had known her role there. One thing’s for certain, we would have and should have put a disclaimer on it,” Comings said. “The credibility of the news department is at stake at something like this, and integrity is extremely important to us.”

Comings said Harvin is “subject to discipline” but declined to comment on specifics.

The online version of the story will be updated to reflect Harvin’s role at the Nehemiah Ministries Christian Church, Comings said.

>Update: a tipster points out that Harvin has reported on the Nehmiah Ministries on at least two other occasions. See the reports here and here.

Watch the report after the jump. Read more

WITI Criticized For Promo Showing Reporter Dancing at Scene of Fatal Fire

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel TV critic Duane Dudek takes note of a recent WITI promotional video, noting the “thin line between news and entertainment got a little thinner” at the Fox affiliate last week.

The promo, which is of WITI‘s morning anchors and reporters doing the “Dougie,” includes one clip of reporter Angelica Duria dancing at the scene of her live shot Friday. The problem? She was reporting from the scene of a fire that resulted in the death of three children. (Watch the promo online here; WITI’s video player does not allow embedding.) >Update: the promo has been removed from WITI’s website.

“We have been working to make parts of FOX 6 Wake Up more fun and spontaneous — especially near the end of the show as we transition into ‘Real Milwaukee.’  We have tried to involve all of the crew and staff,” WITI general manager Chuck Steinmetz said in a statement. “While I personally received multiple positive comments from viewers about the segment — one person specifically thanking us for getting their day off to a fun start before going to work — we never intended to offend anyone. If we did we certainly apologize.”

What do you think? Should the station take down the promo? Vote below.

WXMI Fires Reporter For Failing to Disclose Ties to Atheist Group He Was Covering

WXMI has fired reporter and weekend anchor Jason Volentine after he failed to disclose his connection to an atheist group that he was covering.

In July, Volentine did a story for WXMI about the Freedom From Religion Foundation‘s campaign to have the image of a church removed from the city logo of Wyoming, MI.  MLive reports that the Grand Rapids Fox-affiliate dismissed Volentine when it learned that he had ties to the FFRF, a Wisconsin-based organization that fights for the separation of church and state. Read more

WDBJ Urges Viewers to Look Up Porn Online

For a story about a former porn star who is now volunteering as a local EMT, Roanoke CBS-affiliate WDBJ urged viewers to check out her adult films online.

“The Cave Spring Rescue Squad has been around for more than 60 years. In that time, it’s probably never had a volunteer like Harmony Rose,” WDBJ reporter Justin McLeod told viewers on Thursday. “She’s a former porn star.   Just Google her name and you’ll find hundreds of pornographic videos of hers.” Read more

WSOC Retracts ‘Vagina First’ Graduation Story

WSOC is apologizing for a series of stories covering a “controversial” high school yearbook photo that may or may not have shown an 18-year-old student lifting up her graduation gown to flash her vagina.

In an all-caps message on its website this week, the Charlotte ABC-affiliate issued a formal apology and retracted all of the stories published on the site related to the photo.

“WE OPENLY AND FULLY APOLOGIZE TO THE YOUNG LADY SHOWN IN THE PHOTOGRAPH AND TO OUR READERS,” the post states, listing a series of statements contained in the stories that the station now admits were made in error. Read more

Miami Stations Air New Video of Cannibal Attack

All of the local news stations in Miami aired new video today of the gruesome cannibal attack that occurred over the weekend near the Miami Herald building.

The newly released video, taken by a Herald security camera, shows a high-angle long shot of the location where Rudy Eugene, 31, appears to have randomly encountered a 65-year-old homeless man, identified as Ronald Poppo, and proceeded to chew off a significant portion of his face before a police officer arrived.

The new video was the top story on the noon newscasts of WPLG, WSVN, and WFOR, and WTVJ, which has a half-hour 11 a.m. newscast, played a portion of it during its coverage of the incident today. Read more

KMVT Explains Suicide Policy to Viewers

Reporting on a rise in local suicides, KMVT took time to explain its policy on covering suicides (video above). Like most stations, the Twin Falls, ID CBS-affiliate has a specific policy about reporting on suicides.

“As a rule of thumb, we do not report on suicides, however, we have guidelines we follow,” KMVT news director Joe Martin told viewers. “For example, if it’s a public figure or puts the public in danger then we determine if we report on it.”

The station also posted its policy on its website.

Gay and Lesbian Center Criticizes KCBS For Posting Names, Birthdates of Men Arrested in Sex Sting

FishbowlLA reports that the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center is outraged over KCBS-KCAL’s decision to post the names, birthdates, and mugshots of eighteen men who were arrested in an undercover sting operation at a Manhattan Beach restroom.

This week KCBS and KCAL reported on the arrests, which were based on a range of offenses, including engaging in lewd conduct in a public place and  indecent exposure, and aired the Manhattan Beach Police Department’s collection of mugshots and personal information of the men arrested.  The images, names, and birthdates were then posted on the stations’ website. Read more

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