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When to call lying sources out.

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Hammer Pants, Jul 26, 2007.

  1. Hammer Pants

    Hammer Pants Active Member

    OK, this just recently happened to a friend of mine, and I'm trying to figure out what I would do in a similar situation. I don't know how I've avoided it, to be honest. I know we've talked about it on here before, so sorry if this is a d_b.

    My friend just recently got scooped on a story because he was — possibly intentionally — given the wrong date when something would happen. I'm guessing intentional because the source probably wanted the whole thing to blow over. I know that sounds incredibly vague, but I don't want to throw names around.

    Put yourself in the position of a writer who is being bitched at for losing a scoop because of this. True, this person didn't go to a second source for the information, but EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US has sources we trust enough that we don't need a second in some cases.

    I told him I might write "John Doe told the Daily Bugle on Monday that said event was scheduled for a later date," and then give that source a chance to explain the comment. If this source is obviously one you can't trust any more, pissing them off shouldn't matter. The only problem I see is that it might look like sour grapes. But I think that anyone — especially someone whose salary is paid by taxpayers — should be called out when they do this stuff (NOTE: This friend is in news, not sports).

    On the other hand, I see where some would just let it go and don't trust that source any more, especially if you just got scooped (as opposed to just getting something wrong). But I think people should be called out when they lie to the press.

  2. Flash

    Flash Guest

    Only if you can prove he lied.

    Otherwise, any time that source says something ... double check, triple check and quadruple check.
  3. Hammer Pants

    Hammer Pants Active Member

    I think that last sentence is a given. This friend is a good reporter who made a mistake any of us could, which is putting what looks to be too much trust in a source.

    As for the first sentence, I wouldn't think that would be hard. You don't even have to say he lied. You can just say the person said this wouldn't happen until later, but it happened today, and then let them try to explain their statement.
  4. forever_town

    forever_town Active Member

    Sorry, but if your friend didn't verify information, that's on him.

    Having said that, I'd simply not trust that source again if you believe you've been misled. If you can PROVE he lied, try to see if you can find other instances when he lied and you have proof and do a story on it. However, it has to be part of a chronic pattern rather than simply calling someone out.
  5. Hammer Pants

    Hammer Pants Active Member

    So you're saying it's wrong to throw a few lines in near the bottom of the story saying what that person told you? I ask because I see both sides of this argument. I'm not saying that you should write a banner headline saying "SOURCE LIED." I'm just not sure I see what's wrong with asking a public official to clarify on the record why they gave the media incorrect information.
  6. Flash

    Flash Guest

    Yeah but he can respond with an innocuous 'oh I guess I erred' type of comment. Where does that get you?
  7. forever_town

    forever_town Active Member

    Throwing in a few lines if you can prove it is fine.

    If you ask him for the record, that's different.
  8. We had this happen only it didn't result in us being scooped.

    Candiate for mayor finds out the local college's young Republicans group (basically one guy) sends out a press release announcing the endorsement of the democratic opponent.
    Word gets passed to us that GOP candidate is pissed and sends a formal letter of compalint to the college, which got the kid into trouble.
    Reporter calls mayoral candidate to ask him if he did in fact register a formal complaint with the college. At the time the college wouldn't release the letter.
    Mayoral candidate says no. Says he merely sent the college a note informing them of the college Republicans decision to endorse Democratic candidate.
    After much fighting with the college PR office, and finally threatening legal action, we obtain a copy of the letter.
    Informal note, BTW, is typed written business letter written on "Johnny Jackass for Mayor" stationary.
    First line of letter reads: "This is to be construed as a formal letter of complaint."
    Editor wants reporter to call mayoral candidate back and ask him about his earlier statement.
    Reporter balks: Says no. Reporter wants to write the story, let candidate hang himself and then give candidate opportunity to change/explain his earlier statement in a folo up story.
    Editor relented, story(s) ran as planned and mayoral candidate who was HUGE favorite to win the election loses.

    Reporter was rewarded with huzzahs, and a round of blowjobs from cute advertising reps, a cushy corner office, new Incredible Hulk mouse pad, a shiny new title of Senior Staff Muckraker and given two tickets to see REO Speedwagon in Trenton NJ.
  9. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member


    Unless this guys job is to be give out dates of specific events (like an SID or a clerk of the court or something) do not put anything in the paper about the guy lying.

    And you friend needs to take it as a lesson learned. We get spun/lied to/misinformed all the time and its our job to wade through the BS.
  10. Football_Bat

    Football_Bat Well-Known Member

    This happened to me earlier this year.

    The only thing I have to say is... fool me once, shame on ... shame on you ... CAN'T GET FOOLED AGAIN!
  11. TyWebb

    TyWebb Well-Known Member

    I don't think you'll get anywhere saying the source gave you the wrong info in the story or asking him/her why they did that. Like said above, all you'll get is "My bad."

    Your friend should just learn from this to double and triple check stuff like that and take everything that source says with a grain of salt.
  12. blondebomber

    blondebomber Member

    Pet peeve ... please learn the real meaning of "sour grapes" before you use it in a story. It's not nearly what everybody thinks it is.
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