There’s a never-ending debate going on in breaking and emergency news coverage: whether to get it right, or to get it first.
The two aren’t mutually exclusive, but it can be hard sometimes to differentiate what is fact and what is rumour – and how reliable their sources are. The process of making sure you’ve got it right is verification.
A great resource for those working in news would be the Verification Handbook created by the European Journalism Centre.
In the age of social media, everyone is now a commentator giving their opinions on unfolding local and world events. However, many people giving their opinion on social media, or even claiming to be reporting facts, have no proof that what they are saying is true.
Any potential information for a story found on social media should be verified before being published unless it is from a trustworthy source.
Equally, avoid linking things together, unless an official body does so – and report what they’ve said. Just because two things happened, they may not be related and one may not have caused another.
It is always best in a breaking news story to be later to report the story than to report it first and get the facts wrong. Misreporting information due to haste can mean having to embarrassingly apologies later, whereas reporting news slightly later than others but getting the news right can help cement your reputation as being reliable.
This said, if you are unreasonably slow in reporting a story you will be seen as inferior to your competition and less people will read your story.
There is no easy answer for this catch 22. You’ll never get it always right in a breaking story, but check all the facts you can – as fast as you can.