26 October 2009

News wire criticised for inaccuracies

As debate focuses on how to make online content pay, it is important not to forget about reporting standards.

Journalism.co.uk highlights how this was raised at a recent debate hosted by Thompson Reuters, titled 'What Price the News?', which saw the wire service coming under fire from former employees for apparently favouring speed over accuracy in an increasingly competitive market.

They cited two examples where the company reported inaccurate stories from other media without checking primary sources first.

The first example was from this month, when Reuters initially published a report, first broadcast by Sky News, that the Lockerbie bomber, Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, had died, until his lawyer corrected them.

The second example was CNN's report on a US Coast Guard training exercise on the anniversary of September 11 this year, which was wrongly claimed to be a gun battle.

Audience member Paul Iredale, a former Reuters journalist of 30 years, said he was 'deeply concerned and sad' about what he heard during the debate.

"In Reuters it seems to have gone to speed rather than accuracy," he said. "What we used to say about Reuters was we got it last, but we got it right. I don't think that is the case now."

Reuters' political and general news editor Sean Maguire defended the news wire, saying that it was completely transparent when the stories were found to be untrue.

He said: "When we saw it was wrong, we said we were wrong."

"Because Sky had been a good source on the [al-Megrahi death report] story we reported it. We very quickly said what they said was nonsense."

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