Be judicious when passing along breaking news.
In breaking news situations, timeliness and accuracy can be in conflict. When news is breaking, we may need to pass along information reported by others because the public should know about it immediately. This is particularly true when safety is an issue (severe weather events or other types of emergencies, for example). In all cases, take special care in using information from wire service stories, reports by other news organizations, newspaper clips or articles in other publications.
If it’s determined that something is so important that the public needs to know about it now, even before we’ve had a chance to thoroughly vet the information, be transparent: state what we’re certain of, what we don’t yet know and how our information was acquired. And again, if we have information that might cause significant grief (to a victim’s family, for example) or might potentially put someone in harm’s way, we do not report it until it’s been thoroughly verified and senior editors have given their approval.
Few in our audience will know or care which news organization was first to report a breaking news story. But if we get it wrong, we leave a lasting mark on our reputation. In rare moments, we might be late; we might not be perfect. But we will always be responsible and careful in exercising our best judgment — the judgment that has earned our organization the respect and loyalty of its audience. This is the core of our programming philosophy. (Source: NPR managing editor memo, 2003.)
October 21, 2011