Getting real when the news is fake
When I worked as a full-time journalist, I wasn’t really the type to break big stories. That’s fine – I was happy being first to discover a great new startup, or to write an interesting profile on a notable figure.
I did break a few stories based solely on my own contacts and legwork though, and it was always a buzz. But it struck me how easy it would be to make things up. Given how many big scoops involve anonymous sources, it would be possible to make up all kinds of sensational things, pull in the traffic and then write about the official denials of your stories too.
To be clear, I don’t know anyone who has ever done this, but the fact it’s possible (at least in the short term – you’d likely get found out pretty quickly) demonstrates how important trust in journalism is. And if someone is caught fabricating stories (the greatest crime in journalism), it’s essential that the publication concerned makes regaining reader trust its number one priority.
This is absolutely the right thing to do. At a time when journalists’ credibility is routinely called into question by critics acting in bad faith, burying genuine examples of deceit would only make matters worse in the long run.
You can read a short English language Q&A about the events in question here
. By owning up to the issue, and explaining what it’s doing in response, Der Spiegel shows it’s a responsible publisher with respect for its readers. Bravo.