Authentic journalism died

Credibility versus topicality Journalism in real time

It's like a boxing match: the fast sweeper is standing in one corner. In the other, the exact technician fights. One of them is quick as lightning, but does not take the hit very seriously and sometimes misses the mark. The other is very careful to hit the targeted point, but proceeds a little slower and more cautiously.

It is similar in everyday journalism, especially when it comes to news. accuracy and accuracy are two of the most important quality standards in journalism. At the same time is speed but also a success factor at the level of competition with other media companies. One sensible balancing act between the two conflicting criteria to find is one of the challenges of everyday work for media professionals.

“The criterion of correctness requires that both the research and the publication of the research results with care happen and that on accuracy Value is placed. Hints not to take over immediately, but to research and to check for their factual correctness, is one of the expectations of the journalistic craft; as well Naming uncertainties instead of upgrading speculations to probabilities or even assertions of fact.“

In theory, of course, accuracy should always come before speed. This is what it says in the journalists' association's media code network necherche:

“Journalists research, weight and publish according to the Principle of 'safety over speed'.“

Speeding up messages

Today, in extreme cases, it is only a few seconds before an event, e.g. on Twitter or via live ticker, makes the rounds. The public can now be created almost in real time. However, declaring this to be the primary goal of reporting does not always make sense.

What can happen when speed wins out over accuracy was observed on January 17, 2017, for example. When the Federal Constitutional Court pronounced its verdict on the NPD ban proceedings, various false reports from journalists were initially catapulted into the network, because there were so many Media ticked the supposed news before the end of the decision announcement or tweeted (this has also happened to us at MDR) - a wrong decision.

At the beginning of the proclamation, the court merely repeated the Federal Council's motion, which stated: "The National Democratic Party of Germany, including its sub-organizations (...) is unconstitutional". The actual judgment was not made until about four minutes later, in which the application for a party ban was rejected. But by then the false reports were already floating through the network. Many reporters on site or on screen seem to be seduced by their hunting instinct and competitive pressure to act quickly instead of cautiously.

In such cases, editorial offices usually send Corrections via push message or correct their texts on the online portals. To your own To make mistakes transparent and not to confuse the readers, it is now customary in many media to include a note under the text (e.g. here at Zeit Online) and possibly a short explanation of how the error occurred.

The economization in the media industry

One factor that complicates the balancing act between speed and accuracy in everyday journalism is that Economization in the media industry. Because profit expectations in our economic system are often linked to an increase, the sales figures of many newspapers tend to fall and the digital sector in Germany usually does not yet generate reliably high income, speed, clicks and mass are still a currency that at least bring in advertising revenue . Fewer and fewer media workers are also responsible for a tendency towards increasing output through rationalization:

“After years of downsizing, the merging of editorial offices, outsourcing and the unreasonable meanwhile, the job plans range Work intensification Far from it - at least not for the quality journalism required in Sunday speeches. And that for years rather shrinking as growing Fee budgetsexacerbate the problem“,

writes the federal managing director of the German Union of Journalists (dju) Cornelia Berger at the media criticism forum Vocer. Under too much pressure and with too little money journalism quickly reaches its limits, be more receptive to ready-made PR releases, write down political events faster - "There is no time for questioning, classifying and commenting".

Protection mechanisms in the editorial offices

Most editorial offices have different ones Mechanisms that avoid errors despite the pressure to be up-to-date or at least reduce it. This includes, for example Four or even six eyes principle. Every text is read critically by at least one other person before it is published. In radio there are also so-called Decreases, in which a final editor checks the article again technically and in terms of content. That too Two-source principle is intended to protect against the hasty dissemination of possibly false news. According to this, information is only to be disseminated by editors if it has been confirmed by at least two independent sources. Unless they sit directly at the source of origin, such as the judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court.

However, everyday life shows again and again: This Protective mechanisms do not always work. Therefore, in the end, each and every one of us has to face the balancing act between speed and accuracy over and over again in everyday life.

Speed ​​alone does not offer sustainable added value in the long run. Because a little later, the competitors will probably publish the news too. Comprehensive research, in-depth analysis, level-headed fact checking or authentic reporting give the media a unique selling point in the flood of information. That will too More and more important given the amount of false news on social media.

Even if economic stimuli and sometimes even constraints work: When media professionals place the criterion of speed over accuracy, gamble away your credibility and thus their relevance.