Saturday, March 17, 2012

Keeping It Real

On Friday, This American Life retracted its program about working conditions at the Foxconn factory that makes Apple products due to embellishments and inaccuracies in the story. This American Life also produced new reports and interviews to set the record straight and to explain how its fact checking process went wrong.

Also on Friday, many public radio stations were running Fresh Air's rebroadcast of an John Updike interview. Early in the
conversation, Fresh Air host Terry Gross asked Updike about the virtues of accuracy in writing novels. While they were talking about literature, Updike's response very much applies to the news business.

Updike: "The literary art is a parasitic one in that it's energy comes from the energy of the real and so accuracy is one
way of describing the close approximation to the real that we all sort of live for."

It's a good reminder that as news storytellers, we in public radio are responsible for uncovering the realities of the world, not
defining them.

Our listeners come to us because they want to be as close as possible to what's real. It's how they come to understand the world, their place in it, and if they so choose, how they can make it better. They trust us to be accurate.

We should be proud of This American Life for pioneering new forms of journalistic storytelling. It brings listeners closer to what's real. And we should be proud of This American Life for retracting its Foxconn show. It lets the world know that accuracy trumps agendas.

It's better to not make mistakes at all but how we respond when we are wrong is just as important to maintaining our bond of trust with listeners as getting the story right in the first place.

You can hear the Updike interview here. The section on accuracy begins at 4:21 in the show.

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Blogger jose fritz said...

No posts in 2 months, did you give up the ship?

2:11 PM  

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