by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
journalism, mistakes

amazon, discovery, reuters

Yes, Even Big Professional Journalism Operations Make Mistakes

from the it-happens dept

For the most part, the way this blog works is that we write stories based on what's being reported on elsewhere, and add some analysis or opinion or response to the story. Then, we let the discussion happen. We never claim to be complete, and one of the reasons why we leave the comments so wide open is we fully expect people to stop by and fill in more information. That's why we're always amused that when we respond to a story where the original source got some facts wrong, some commenters snipe in the comments about our failure to fact check, often with some snide comment about how we're what's killing journalism and/or something about how we are biased/covering up the real story, etc. I've never quite understood this, because we certainly don't hide our process. We link to all our sources, and explain our reasoning, and if a story changes, we're more than willing to post an update, always indicating what's changed.

But the fact is that all sorts of publications get stories wrong, even the big famous ones. For example, reading through my feeds, I recently saw a Reuters report claiming that the Discovery Channel had sued Amazon for patent infringement on July 14th. That struck me as odd since we had written about that identical thing... but back in March of 2009. Looking at the details, it seemed like all that happened was that Discovery set up its own patent holding subsidiary, Discovery Patents, and assigned the patents to that new organization, who took over the case in a procedural move. Big deal.

And indeed, a few hours later, I reloaded the Reuters story, and the story changed, with the new headline saying Discovery says infringement case v Amazon not new, rather than the original which said "Amazon accused of infringing patents with Kindle." I find the new headline amusing, because it's basically saying "hey, we reported on news that wasn't news." But, kudos to Reuters for not just disappearing the story, and admitting (sort of) in the story that it got the original story wrong. Of course, it doesn't fully come out and say it got the story wrong. It just changed the story to now say "Discovery said" that this was just a procedural move, rather than admitting that's exactly what happened. No need for the he said/she said. You can come out and say what actually happened.

Anyway, we're certainly not doing this to mock Reuters, which actually does a lot of good reporting. Just to highlight the fact that lots of media publications make a mistake here or there, and it's no sign of "hiding facts" or "bias." Sometimes a mistake is just a mistake.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2010 @ 4:15pm

    The only problem is:

    When yours is one the most bothersome "voices" about someone else's "mistakes" to those that are so frequently caught with the pants on fire, to find even a hint of a mistake on your part is already a "victory", even if the mistake is not really yours... LOL

    I'd call it human nature, but, I hesitate... It's probably "Troll Nature" or something even... darker.

    Anyway, TD is already an icon and a beacon, that makes it a target, as you know so well... All I can say, take that as a compliment on a job well done.


    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Slot, 19 Jul 2010 @ 1:14am

    To err is human, I agree.
    But before relaying information, shouldn't you verify the source? Because if you publish something wrong, correct it saying you're sorry, the reader is going to forgive you once. But if you make the same mistake twice, it is your credibility which is in stake and the reader may not reading you if he doubts of your information.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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