By S. MOLLY DOMINICK
Since coming to the University of Miami in August last year, I’ve been working on the student newspaper The Miami Hurricane. In that time, one word has been etched into my brain as being most critical to my job as a reporter: Deadlines.
Deadlines. All-day deadline work sessions. Don’t miss your deadline. From the get-go, the word “deadline” has been repeated again and again, with intense focus given to the importance of timeliness.
But timeliness often comes into conflict with accuracy. In fact, this conflict is so pressingly problematic that the Code of Ethics for the Society of Professional Journalists includes the following statement:
“Remember that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.”
Noting this, it’s interesting to me that there’s been such a sharp focus on timeliness, within an organization that trains future journalists, when well-regarded standards of practice warn against doing so.
Even if not heralded as the most important aspect of journalism, timeliness receives the most attention. News, like anything else, is a business—specifically, the business of being first. And from an ethical standpoint, timeliness is essential to bringing news that is relevant and important to the public it intends to serve.
But ideologically, accuracy clearly reigns as just as — or more — crucial. Even if you are the speediest news writer in the world, it will mean nothing if your work is riddled with errors.
But during my experience as a student reporter, I’ve noticed that accuracy is only brought up in conversation once someone has already made an error.
Because accuracy is so important, people assume that others recognize it as such—like it goes without saying. But when you don’t say, it leaves the forefront of people’s minds to be replaced with what you are talking about: deadlines. And people are talking about those constantly.
If we give accuracy as much—or more—time in the spotlight as deadlines, hopefully we can better train ourselves as future journalists to avoid ethical gaffes before they occur.