Journalistic Integrity

by Jonathan Mays, May 22nd 2003
Introduction by Christopher Macdonald

One of the greatest benefits of online publishing has always been the ability to go back and correct an article after it has been posted. Whereas print publishers are stuck with their errors and are forced to issue sometimes embarrassing errata, web-publishers can change the original and pretend that nothing ever happened. Unfortunately this brings up an issue of integrity. Journalistic integrity involves a certain level of responsibility in regards to the information that one makes available to the public. Clearly, online publishers such as ANN must follow a known set of standards detailing exactly what they can change after the fact and how they can change them.

In the wake of recent news, Jonathan Mays has proposed a very restrictive standard, and after much discussion and debate, we've decided to adopt his standard as it was proposed. While this new standard restricts what we can do after posting an article, its real impact will be on how we do things before the fact. This editorial doesn't discuss those changes, but what you should know is that this standard will result in even more reliable news from ANN, and even more work on ourpart making absolutely certain that what we post is as reliable as it can possibly be.

Journalistic Integrity

by Jonathan Mays

Journalism functions only with the trust of its audience. Any forum for journalism, regardless of its quality, its resources, or its reputation, becomes irrelevant when that trust is violated. This week, reports of former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair challenged the partnership between press and public. His pattern of plagiarism and deceit tarnished one of the world's most powerful media organizations, unleashing waves of confusion, fear, and anger upon newsrooms across the continent.

In the shadow of this unnerving revelation, the Anime News Network staff discussed the significance of the Jayson Blair scandal, a story that has forced all news organizations to reconsider their own policies and practices. The question faces us squarely: is ANN vulnerable to such unsavory journalism? Have we ever been the victims of malicious, dishonest reporting? Does the potential exist for us to fall prey to its influence in the future?

If an establishment replete with hundreds of full-time reporters and editors is subject to the brutal manipulation of someone like Blair, one must conclude that a staff with far fewer resources and editors is open to such a breach of honesty. The simple truth is that the threat of plagiarism, of fabrication, of carelessness faces all journalists each day. It confronts the New York Times, and it confronts us.

The threat acknowledged, it is up to individual newsrooms to determine how best to cope with the fear and how to minimize the chance of a repeat incident. For years, Anime News Network has maintained a series of standards by which we report, our own effort to maintain integrity.

For example, ANN adheres to a strict policy on crediting sources. Particularly in the online community, the potential for misinformation to spread almost instantly dictates the necessity for both care and good judgement in reporting. Some sources are traditionally more reliable than others, and we process news with this prejudice. Sources are always credited when possible, and only with the explicit permission of the editors may information from unnamed sources contribute to a report. Depending on their perceived reliability and significance, rumors occasionally appear on ANN but are clearly marked as such.

Of equal importance to us is the credibility of feature articles, all of which are researched thoroughly with editors confirming any questionable facts. It is important, however, to remember that we expect professionalism from all staff members, leading us to assume truth in an article's contents unless there is reason to believe otherwise. We all possess a level of professional trust among each other, a trust than any organization demands, and a trust that Blair violated disgracefully with his colleagues.

But of course, there is room for improvement. After exhaustively evaluating ANN's reporting practices, we have decided to implement one new policy beginning today: with the sole exception of non-content corrections*, no news article will be altered in any way after it has been posted to the public. If it is necessary to amend an article, whether a small addition or a significant correction, we will make a separate note at the end of the previous post, clearly distinguishing the original from the updated form. We believe that the power to correct factual "mistakes" diffuses the sense of responsibility that ANN bears when publishing news. Like a newspaper, ANN may only add to its content, never remove.

If the fear of fabrication strikes you, the reader, ANN's history of reliable reporting should allay your concerns. For almost five years, we've given the anime community factual, objective, unbiased news articles. Of course, we've made a few occasional errors, but any mistakes were corrected and noted on the site. Our record is strong, and you have no reason to expect anything less from us in the future.

To claim the "Internet's most trusted anime news source" title is to claim that our readers hold us to the highest standard of credibility. It is the goal of Anime News Network's staff to maintain that standard by exercising prudence in our practices and policies, our veracity and validity at stake. Perfection is far from us, but it is a standard for which we shall always strive.

Jonathan Mays
Anime News Network

*Spelling, html (color choice, misaligned pictures), and grammar corrections that do not affect the meaning of an article are the only exceptions to this rule.

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