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Friday, November 24, 2017

Getting It Wrong

by Libdrone (writer), Pierce County, Washington, August 28, 2010

Credit: Andrux
The Wrong Version

An editorial policy that encourages self-review and self-criticism will best enable Broowaha and its writers to grow into journalists who can be taken seriously.

Having previously written a rather long piece about netiquette and flame wars, I want to start by saying that this is not a flame. Actually it is a story about a web site that is doing something right, it appears to me. Very early in my blogging career I wrote Free People Read Freely in observation of the American Library Association's annual Banned Books Week campaign. I shared with my readers some of my favorite books that have been banned. I presented ten books and wrote a fairly well researched paragraph about how, when, where and why each had been banned. I ended the piece by asking my readers to comment about their favorite banned books. It was a great post, and the next day I took ten of my reader's suggestions and wrote Banned Books Chosen By Readers Of This Blog. Two posts, twenty great books and my little site was receiving more visitors than I ever had before. Man, I was on a roll. So third day I decided I would continue the Banned Books theme and do a post about Why books are banned. I assumed I knew the answer to that. And I had a plan. I would post a thread on a popular message board that I frequent asking people to comment on why books get banned. I'd pick up a few quotes, knock out the piece in an hour or so and get on with my day.

Boy, was I wrong.

Rather than readily and quickly agreeing with what I had believed (that books were being banned more and more because the right wing did a political takeover of many school boards a few years back). the members of the forum postulated three other completely credible theories. And every one of them was expressed every bit as eloquently as I am able to write. It was, as they say, a learning experience. In the end, I wrote A Post That Would Not Be Written about my experiences that day-- reading a discussion board and learning how complex the issue of banning books actually is, rather than what I had believed (in what in retrospect I see was a very knee-jerk, reactionary manner) to be simply one more example of right wing over-reach. And the three correspondents who contribiuted so much to my education? Every one of them subscribed to a belief system that I do not share. One lessoned I learned that day is that people who profoundly disagree with us can teach us a great deal about ourselves. It was definitely a highlight of my almost two decades now of participating in online communities.

Everybody makes mistakes. Successful people try to learn from them every single time. And it appears to me that the folks who bring us Broowaha want those of us who write here to learn and grow. I screwed up last week. I jumped on a bandwagon and wrote a story about the "new $300 Philadelphia blog tax". Three of the five words in that headline turned out to be factually inaccurate. Naturally, I was horrified. I reporterd factually inaccurate information. That is definitely a big NO for any writer or website that ever seeks to call themself a journalist with a straight face. So I did what any reporter should. I researched the issue very thoroughly. I sought out an interview with a credible source. And I verified that every fact had been reported in coherence by three indepent sources. (You did know those are rules for factual reporting, didn't you?) Then I published the much better researched article and put a link to it in a reply to a comment on the inaccurate article.

The fact is, that if I had in my embarassment simply let my story drop to the bottom of the Broo and not issued a correction, I would have harmed the credibility of every person who writes here. That Broowaha without comment allowed me to go ahead and correct my error gives me great hope that every one of us here can come to hold ourselves to all of the ethical standards of the profession. And if that doesn't make us "real journalists", nothing will.



About the Writer

Libdrone is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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9 comments on Getting It Wrong

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By Paul Wylie on August 28, 2010 at 04:26 am

Lib, I do enjoy reading your articles, but this one, sad to say, was not one of them. I have blogged and been paid quite substantial sums for some stories I have covered, but yet, I freely choose to post here due to the fact that there appears to be a non-judgemental atmosphere.

While understanding your needs, as well as every other person who contributes here, please also understand that the very existence of BrooWaha in this very trying time owes it's existence to the fact that we, as a nation, still hold dear the tenets of our Constitution.

I know. It sounds so hollow against your stance, but please believe me, were it not true, i would not lend my name nor my credibility to this site.

I have blogged since before who knows when, and yet, there are precious few resources for writers to just lay back and blow it all out. Broo is one of the few. Think on that and don't change anything, lest you find yourself in a situation where you are told what to write, what to think and how to cover a topic or story. We writers stand with you, and hopefully, you'll take advantage of our calm, cool, demeanor, and allow us to help you sort out any issues you may have.

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By Libdrone on August 28, 2010 at 04:52 am

Paul,

Ok. Tell me what is wrong with me encouraging every writer here to try to live up the ethical standards of professional journalism.

Yes, I know many of us here do not have training in professional journalism. But in this exciting and rapidly evolving era (for those of us who genuinely love to write and want very much to gain readership?). Really, are you actually telling me that trying to learn and uphold the ethical standards of journalists is somehow a Bad Thing?

Honestly, I never dreamed that _this_ article would draw my first serious rebuke for a respected member of the BrooWaha community. Please, Paul, tell me what I am mis-understanding or mis-perceiving. And please call me Alan. I genuinely detest being called "Lib" for personal reasons but would be happy to be on a first name basis with you.

a

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By Libdrone on August 28, 2010 at 04:59 am

(and I am utterly mystified by the "don't go changing anything" remark. I specifically Praised BrooWaha for Allowing me to publish about MY errors in reporting a story that I covered. Admitting when you make a mistake and taking prompt steps to correct it is the cornerstone of accumulating credibility as a writer or a journalist. You can't be against credibility can you?)

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By voodooKobra on August 28, 2010 at 06:04 am

Paul, it sounds like you're conflating what is being proposed here with a strict, micromanaging editorial policy that would serve as an affront to free speech and democracy.

I don't think that's what Libdrone is proposing at all. Self-editing and being strictly edited and fact-checked by someone else are two very different propositions. Not to mention it would place an unreasonably high burden on the folks who run this place to fact check every submission that comes across their desk with a fine-tooth comb.

Self-editing is a good thing. It helps one build credibility.

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By Gracey on August 28, 2010 at 06:58 am

I completely agree with Lib here. If you write an article that is based on fact and that "fact" turns out to be wrong, then issuing a correction notice is standard practice in journalism.

What's wrong with "making right" an error in something you wrote? I wouldn't want to write an aticle that let believe something that turned out to be wrong.

That would put my reputation and credibility in toilet.

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By Libdrone on August 28, 2010 at 11:06 am

@Tazz Let me see if I can get a revision to the article to go through. I agree that would be preferable to having the link to the corrections appear only in the comments, but honestly if somebody visits the post, the comments are right there. The link to the correction is there. But it would be better if were in the main post. (Let me see if I can figure out the revision thingy.)

@Everyone

Thank you so much for reassuring me that basic rules of journalism that I was taught back in high school still apply. My point was that mistakes are 1) learning opportunities 2) should never ever be hidden. I tried to make it more intersting by telling stories from my experiences rather than dryly making pronouncements about "what You should do". From the majority reaction I think I did okay.

@Paul, honestly I don't know what I said that tripped your ignorant newbie meter, but I assure you I am neither. I'd really like to understand just what exactly I wrote that you specifically reacted to.

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By Libdrone on August 28, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Perhaps. And yet this post has been live less than a day and we are already at comment 11. Somebody must read comments. And I still hope that Paul will reply. I honestly want to know what I said that gave him what seems to be some misconception. I was told BrooWaha is all about getting feedback and talking with other writers.

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By Libdrone on August 28, 2010 at 12:36 pm

(I added a bold face CORRECTION notice at the very top of the article and linked it to the newer article. clicked on Submit To Editor. will keep an eye out to see that it gets changed. will talk to Tony and get the change put through if it doesn't go through today.)

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Log In To Vote   Score: 2
By Libdrone on August 30, 2010 at 04:14 am

The revision has been posted and there is now a bold faced CORRECTION notice at the very top with a link to the accurate article. I want to thank everyone for re-assuring me that accuracy matters and that mistakes in factual reporting should be acknowelged.

Paul,

You are a better writer and reporter than I probably ever be. But in this discussion you chose to play a much less revered role--- troll.

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