Jared Lankford: Is it news, fact or opinion?

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Being open, honest and genuine are traits that I have always tried to portray in columns and when readers approach me in public.

In laymanís terms ó what you see is what you get.

Lankford

Iíve never considered myself to be a journalist, but an individual that loves sports and gets to cover local teams and scratch out a living.

Often times, information flows to me for potential story ideas from readers, people who stop me on the street or items that are found on social media.

As such, my profession demands that a filter be in place to differentiate between good information, bad leads or tidbits that can be filed away until a time when they are useful to be printed.

With every article I author, my name is attached. Therefore, I have to take ownership of the things printed on the pages of this publication. Every mistake, typo or misidentification, regardless of the cause, is still my error because my insignia is attached.

As was told to me when I started this job, ďEverybody makes mistakes, ours just get printed several thousand times.Ē Also, ďIt is better to be correct, than to be first.Ē

While not all in my profession adhere to these simple philosophies, I have done my best to follow them.

The sports pages of the paper here are rarely controversial. That isnít to say that we gloss over items, because we have covered news that we were asked to keep quiet.

But, one thing I refuse to write is articles based solely upon anonymous source information.

On multiple occasions we have received anonymous letters, emails or phone messages asking us to look at this or that situation.

It would be disingenuous of me to say that some of the things we are implored to investigate we were not aware of already.

However, being able to cite a source with first-hand knowledge of a situation or just using an anonymous source are on opposite ends of the journalism ethics spectrum.

In a large part, especially in my work, we deal with individuals that have identities that are shielded by laws and a legal system.

Yet, there are cases that the anonymous sources want us to pursue the most. Unless you have first-hand information, are willing to be named in the story as a source, the chances of the story being written are none.

If you feel that the school mishandled a situation with minors involved, I implore you to talk to the school about the situation. There is only so much legally a newspaper can do.

With every tip I am given I must determine if it is news, fact or opinion. Also it must be determined if it is verifiable.

If it is verifiable then it will be pursued.

Once my name is attached to an article I must own the piece ó mistakes and all.

Anonymous individuals generally arenít willing to take that risk of going public.

A personís good name and reputation take a lifetime to build, but only seconds to destroy.

I am cognizant of this fact with each story I write, and I will not sacrifice my integrity to satisfy any anonymous personís grudge.

Be ready to present verifiable facts or be ready to be disappointed in my response.

Jared Lankford is the sports editor of the Cassville Democrat. He may be reached at sports@cassville-democrat.com or at 417-847-2610.

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