How do journalists check their information

Journalism & Research


How do you know all this? Anyone who disseminates information through the media has to put up with these questions. “Headmaster X appeared drunk at the school party” or “Teacher Z gets on with his students” - could be. But when it is in the newspaper, the backyard whisper turns into tangible information. If that is not the case, everything stays with the writer, not to mention the legal consequences.

“I heard something like that!” Does not help. Information has to be secured, it has to be researched and comprehensive. Even at the risk of the story bursting. Isn't that understandable? Not always - even professional journalists are sometimes afraid of dead researching a good story and break off the research in favor of a spectacular but incorrect article.

However, it's not always about investigative journalism. This is the name of the form of journalism that tracks down hot scandals and taps sources under strict protection of informants (to be found, for example, at Spiegel und Monitor). Often it is enough to question those affected, to ask politicians or officials, to call the press officer or simply to look up in the dictionary.

Sources of information and the basis for an article can also be:

  • Press releases that administrations, associations, parties, companies etc. regularly publish
  • specific information through verbal hints or tips
  • Routine meetings of clubs, associations, parties, state parliaments, teachers, etc.
  • own research
  • "Organized events": This is what Wolf Schneider, long-time director of the Hamburg Henri Nannen School of Journalism, called press conferences and press appointments (laying of the foundation stone, openings, etc.)
  • other media such as daily newspapers from other regions, magazines, radio and television: the "view over the fence" often helps to find exciting topics
  • exciting stories found on the internet

Incoming material should be viewed and evaluated immediately, because otherwise the editorial staff would get lost in the chaos of paper. 95 percent are mostly unusable for reasons of content and space and go straight to the wastebasket; the rest is filed in an appointment folder by date or forwarded to the responsible colleagues / departments. This evaluation is based on knowledge of the target group (is this also interested in my readers? What benefit does my reader have from this information) as well as experience and routine. This also includes specialist knowledge and constant observation of the topic.

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