• Improbabilities: When Jack Kelley filed his famous story with USA Today about seeing, in the aftermath of a bombing, human heads rolling down the street, their eyelids still blinking, it would have been a good thing for the paper if an editor had said, “What the hell?” and followed up. In journalism, as in investment offers, if it looks too good to be true …
Here are a couple of other pieces of advice for editors:
• Beware of last minute, Hail Mary changes. If a reporter is struggling with a story and suddenly turns in something with top-notch quotes, solid research etc., you should be suspicious. How did things suddenly go so right?
• Open up the process. Encourage reporters to expand on an article by producing a blog post that lays out, and links to, their research, or that presents additional quotes from interviewees. “If everything we do is out there for the public to see, we’ll have an incentive to stay honest, and we might just earn back some of the trust that people seem to have lost in journalists over the past few decades,” wrote Michael Becker.
This is by no means a final guide; I hope reporters, editors and others will share their knowledge. Consider the above to be a starting point for discussion. What advice am I missing? How could these tips be improved? Share your thoughts in the comments or contact me directly.
Correction of the Week
“I am sorry to disappoint all the readers who wished to apply for the position, but New Orleans does not employ a ‘sex assessor.’ That was a misprint in Wednesday’s column. It should have read ‘tax assessor.’ Slips don’t come much more Freudian than that.” – Times-Picayune