Why do Accuracy Checks surprise people?
Part of the policy for the Missourian is that after we complete an interview for a story, we follow up with the source and do accuracy checks. We send any of their quotes we used, as well as supplemental information they provided and context surrounding the quote, to the source.
The ACs are not an invitation to rewrite the story by any means - but they are key to keeping our information as accurate as possible. If someone cited a number or event incorrectly, it’s important to head up potential errors of fact ahead of time. (We also typically record our interviews - so there’s no claiming something wasn’t said when it was.)
Yet, in my few weeks of reporting, several sources have reached out to me after I’ve done an accuracy check to laud praises. This isn’t meant to sound like a brag - it’s more a source of confusion. I’ve been told it’s a marker of professionalism, and a change in pace for people who’ve been interviewed before. One such source told me that she typically has 2-3 interviews a week, and is rarely followed up with for accuracy’s sake.
This floors me. Why is this the case? Are accuracy checks not the norm in the journalism industry? Is it a sense of ego from the journalists? Is it naiveté? Or do reporters simply forget? Granted I will likely forget to do an AC once or twice in my own career - but it should be expected from sources right?
If they’re not normalized, maybe they should be. It could do well to increase the public’s trust in us. Though I’ve heard arguments that it’s not a journalist’s job to be trusted, one cannot ignore that a trusted reporter gains more access than one that isn’t.