“While not standardized in any code, every journalist operates by relying on some often highly personal method of testing and providing information- his own individual discipline of verification”- ‘Journalism of Verification’ by Kovach and Rosentiel
This system of verification captures the very essence of journalism. It is what separates it from other mediums such as entertainment or art. Though fiction can focus on various aspects of a narrative, journalism aims to report what exactly occurred correctly.
The thought of a story or report being “basically accurate” is unacceptable in the world of journalism. Journalism, defined, means “writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation”. Journalists must at least attempt to keep their biased opinions and thoughts out of their writing to convey stories. In other words, they need to be objective. This can come from a more scientific approach to writing.
The evolution of reporting objectively has come from a trial and error method. This allows each journalist to not only learn and develop their writing through individual experience, but also through learning from other fellow journalists. In this way journalism doe snot have a system (as is the case with science) as much as an understanding.
However, there are some journalists who believe “narrative nonfiction, the use of literary style to tell nonfiction, needs to blend into the area of invention”. However, others argue that narrative nonfiction does not need to invent in order to succeed. The controversy about narrative nonfiction is that it is not verified like professional journalism. They attempt to tell the story without crossing the line between fact and fiction.
Importance of verification…
This idea is acceptable as long as the journalist does not add falsities or attempt to deceive the reader. Instead, they should try to remain transparent, unbiased writers. The same level of truth that is desired for reporters is for sources. Anonymity has become an issue with reporters and their sources. Anonymous writers have a greater tendency to mislead the writer. As was the case with the UVa controversy. People have less of an obligation to tell the whole and sole truth when they are protected with anonymity.
This is where background checking, missing links, and details need to be checked. Because an untruthful source leads to a less credible journalist. A journalist can assume nothing- not even that their informant is being truthful. This is why verification plays a central role in journalism.