Accuracy is Key

Newswriting is different from every other kind of writing because the content journalists produce is a direct product of the events that take place around them rather than creativity. They write about what happens in reality rather than what they imagine, and are held accountable for providing a true and clear explanation of world events to their readers.

Every detail of a news story has to be as accurate as possible, or the writer, and publication risk losing their credibility. This includes quotes, definitions, names, dates, locations, and even the headline. If a writer sets the wrong tone for the story with a headline, or includes inaccurate information they risk destroying their reputation, and that of whoever they are writing for.

Because of the number of options people have for obtaining news, journalists not only have to struggle with producing reliable content, but also being the first to release relevant news in order to maintain a readership. Considering the ever nature of news and current events, it is no surprise that these two priorities sometimes clash.

In addition to their reputations, journalists also risk damaging the reputations of whoever they are writing about. If they rush to deliver news, and print false information, even accidentally, they could cause harm to the subject of their article.

In The Paper, Henry struggled with this conflict when it he had to decide whether to postpone printing the paper, or risk printing the wrong information. By postponing the paper, they lost a lot of money, and everyone had to stay late to get the news correct before printing it, but if they had printed the wrong headline they would have looked bad the next day, and hurt the two young men who were wrongly arrested for the shooting.

Instead of just accepting the obvious answer, that suspects were arrested, and printing the headline “Gotcha,” the team spent hours investigating the issue to the best of their ability until they were able to put out an accurate headline. Still, it was a struggle for Henry to even publish the correct headline because Alicia was more concerned with the paper meeting the bottom line.

The conflict that took place in the movie, though dramatic, was a representation of what happens in real news outlets every time something major takes place. For example, when the Boston bombing happened every major news outlet in the country scrambled to provide the most accurate updates to the American people as quickly as possible.

For the most part, this led to reliable information being conveyed, but in the rush, CNN made the mistake of publishing completely false information. They probably didn’t check their sources as thoroughly as they should have, like how Henry refused to publish a vague quote and instead got a specific one from a police officer. Instead, they tried to be the first and most detailed news outlet and said the bombers had been caught when they hadn’t. As a result they became the subject of probably the only jokes associated with the bombing, and people turned to other sources for news on the subject.

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