Friday, August 23, 2019

How to be more credible, from an investigative reporter

Tina Kaiser. Photo by Gisela Gürtler
News organizations have been losing credibility for years, and the reasons are many. Too often, we journalists have been arrogant and said, in effect, Trust us, we know what we're doing. But today, journalism is under attack, and we have to explain why people should trust us.
 There are many things publishers can do to improve credibility, said Tina Kaiser, an investigative reporter for Die Welt in Germany, during a talk with a group of journalists and communicators from the College of Europe.

In her talk, at Die Welt's Berlin headquarters, Kaiser described the publication's policies and mentioned how they were applied in specific stories, such as a series about Arab gangs in Germany.

1. Transparent corrections. Admit your mistakes quickly and fully, and be transparent about how they were made. If an organization simply says, "this information was incorrect", the public is left with doubts about why a correction was determined to be necessary. Was it an honest mistake, a careless breach of journalistic standards, or inaccurate information provided by a source? Without some explanation, readers might assume that a correction was made because of undue pressure and influence from some interested party.

2. "The making of" stories. For any kind of long-term investigative or enterprise stories, a news organization ought to also publish an explanation of how information was obtained, who the sources were, where journalists traveled to interview people and do research, how the information was double-checked and verified, and other information that demonstrates the care and professional standards used.