What is verification, anyway?

On Saturday, we learned that police accosted two children, aged four and eight, at their home because they were home-schooled. They were taken to the police station, shorn of their dreadlocks and fed chicken.

Or so the Jamaica Gleaner says. Apparently we are to believe one unverified account. Later on Saturday, the police denied the whole thing, instead blaming a family member.

This story should not have gotten out the door. It was one account, unverified, as I said. It is a confusing, convoluted tale, that if true, is horrific and demands further attention. It should have not been published and investigated further. As it is now, it is ripe for a libel lawsuit. I guess the Gleaner does not have lawyers read their copy anymore. I saw lots of comments on social media that the Gleaner has no credibility anymore, and it should not. These are simple mistakes to avoid. Take some more time, get some more accounts, get an official reaction from the police.

As I teach my students, verification is a skill specific to a trained journalist. It is something learned. It is essential in presenting information. But I find a lot of the Gleaner’s stories are simply one person being quoted throughout, without any sort of journalistic structure.

It is very sad. The Gleaner is an old, old newspaper. It has a reputation that is being frittered away with carelessness. At least that is what I ascribe it to. It cannot be to get that scoop out there, because that sense of competition denotes pride in your work, and I don’t see any pride in the product the Gleaner is putting out.

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