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Journalists Are People And Make Mistakes Too

Jul 16, 14 Journalists Are People And Make Mistakes Too

Would you go into a store and call the person at the counter a “moron,” “idiot” or suggest they should be fired if/when they make a small mistake? Would you suggest that any person doing their job should be fired because you don’t agree with their opinion?

Most of the time the answer is probably no. For some reason, however, it seems fair game that journalists are allowed to be called names and it is part of our job to take it. This month, Reuters reporter Christina Farr made a mistake or two in a story about Apple titled, “Advocates for blind, deaf want more from Apple.”

Ms. Farr apparently cut a quote by Apple CEO Tim Cook and had a reference to a lawsuit that didn’t happen.

What is notable is that it wasn’t just readers leaving comments that called out the story, but others in the press – and frankly, I for one think some of her fellow journalists and bloggers should have shown her more respect.

Daring Fireball‘s John Gruber offered the thought that “A few things in this article stuck out to me as oddly slanted.”

Fair enough. Gruber also questioned that Apple’s rival Google wasn’t also called out in Farr’s article for suggesting that Apple is feeling more heat than Google’s Android – because Android has a bigger market share. Of course Farr made the point, “as the creator of the modern smartphone and long-time champion for the blind is feeling the most heat.” That is all true, yet Gruber argued that iOS is far ahead of Android in “out-of-the-box accessibility for the vision impaired? (It doesn’t).”

For this, Gruber is nitpicking, in my opinion. Ms. Farr’s article – as the headline suggests – is about Apple and its commitment to the blind and deaf, not Apple and Google’s commitments! She made the point that Google is feeling pressure and I for one agree that more did not need to be said.

Gruber’s comments were hardly the worse, however. The Loop‘s Jim Dalrymple wrote: “Dear Reuters, you f**king morons: You can’t pick and choose which parts of a quote you want to use to fill the narrative of a story you already have written.”

I would say to Mr. Dalrymple, have you never made a mistake? Never had your article edited?

As a professional journalist and author, I understand that some people aren’t going to like what I write and I invite anyone to leave a comment in disagreement. I don’t think it is right to resort to name calling. As a member of the media, Dalrymple crossed the line too.

Daniel Eran Dilger of Apple Insider responded in what I would call a more civil manner. He noted, “Reuters gets Apple accessibility wrongers” and proved this by showing that Apple does have a long commitment towards accessibility.

Many of the readers of the various news sites that picked up Farr’s wire story ended up leaving comments that were rude, crude and equally unproductive. AppAdvice, which picked up the story and added its own original reporting, was force to close the comments – posting: “Closing this thread and deleting the discussion. Since it’s off point and no one can be civil.”

For the record, I again don’t mind when people respond, but there is one case in particular I’ll call out. I wrote a round-up of video games for a print magazine and someone sent in a letter because of a mistake in my reporting. I take all the blame because a game title was cut with a comma, which suggested it was two games, not one. One reader wrote in and basically said, “I expect more from this magazine, and this reviewer should be fired.”

My editor seemed to agree with the reader, and I never worked for that magazine again. To me, it was just a small error and no one died, no one lost his/her job and life should have gone on.

That time I didn’t sit by and let it go. I tried to call the reader to explain he basically cost me my job with the magazine. I tracked him down and was told by the person who answered his home number, “he is at work.” I called that number and discovered it was a fast food restaurant. The reader was 17 years old. At that point I let it go, but I wondered if he ever made a mistake at work – not that such things EVER happen in fast food restaurants!

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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