ISSN 1016-1007 GPN2005600032
頁數:1﹣47 查證或不查,這是個問題:報社記者查證日常新聞的多重考量 To Verify or Not To Verify, That is the Question: Newspaper Journalists’ Considerations of Daily News Verification
Chin-Chih, Chiang
context, daily news verification, expense of verification, future-oriented, news genre, source credibility
Verification is a core value of professional journalism, and especially in the digital age it adds significance to professional journalists. Canter (2014) found that local British journalists regarded themselves as “verifiers of news”, yet according to previous publications, journalists in daily news production neither spend much time nor put lots of effort into verifying like the public expects. There are several reasons for that - namely, journalists do not have enough financial and time resources, they are familiar with and trust their sources, and what journalists need is relatively accurate information and not an absolute truth. Despite that, journalists do not ignore the importance of news verification, as they still verify while producing daily news.

Journalists in theory should verify the source of the content and the content itself independently (Brandtzaeg, Lüders, Spangenberg, Rath-Wiggins & Følstad, 2016, p. 325), but in daily news production, source verification is the key (Barnoy & Reich, 2020; Rauchfleisch, Artho, Metag, Post & Schäfer, 2017). Furthermore, because journalists rely heavily on their regular authoritative sources in daily news production, source credibility becomes a practical mechanism that helps them decide whether or not to verify (Reich, 2011a). However, Reich (2011b) also pointed out that source credibility does not fully explain why journalists decide to cross-check their information.

A review of the literature on this topic indicates that when journalists decide whether to verify or not, they tend to consider three major contextual factors: news genre constraints, content characteristics, and source authority and credibility. However, it is worth noting that a journalist’s decision is not only context-dependent, but also highly dynamic. Until now, there has been scant research on how journalists consider the interwoven contexts and how they regard news verification as a future-oriented task. Therefore, by focusing on daily news production, this study aims to explore journalists’ practical consideration of multiple contexts when they decide whether to verify or not.

The data of this study comes from a research project that aims to examine, in daily news production, how journalists decide to verify, their consideration and verification practices, and how news organizations establish their verification routines and norms. We conducted in-depth interviews with 30 editorial supervisors and journalists specializing in politics, judiciary, or finance in Taiwan’s four major newspapers. All interviews were conducted between the middle of April 2018 and the beginning of July 2019. Each interview was approximately 2 hours in length, and all were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim.

The purpose of this study is to explore in daily news production the journalists’ consideration and decision about whether to verify or not, and so we focused on the data from the 25 interviewed journalists. The interviewees were asked to classify the information which they decide to use in their news articles into three types: the information they have to verify, information that does not need verification, and the information they could decide either way. The researcher then asked them to give examples of each information type to elaborate on their reasons and the various contexts they took into consideration.

There are three main findings in this article as follows. First, this study reveals that journalists’ decision about whether to verify is based on weighing the expense of verification (time, cognitive processing, and interpersonal pressures), the benefit of the news (importance or impact of the news), and the risk of lacking full verification (it might cause a negative impact on society, their news organization, and the journalists themselves). Therefore, the higher benefit and risk a news article has, the higher the probability is that journalists will start verifying. On the other hand, when the expense of verifying is negligible, journalists are inclined to regard news verification as part of information gathering and proceed with verification while gathering information.

Second, in addition to news genre constraints, source authority, and content characteristics influencing journalists’ decision about verifying or not, this study finds that journalists tend not to verify content if it is similar to previously acquired information. Furthermore, this study emphasizes that the contextual factors are not independent, but interwoven and affected by the expense of verification, the impact of the news, and the risk of lacking full verification as mentioned above. For example, in daily news production, one of the reasons, as stated in previous literature, that journalists skip verifying the information offered by their authoritative sources is the sources’ authority and credibility. However, there are four other practical considerations as follows: (1) Journalists tend to believe that authoritative sources will avoid the negative impact of offering incorrect or fake information to journalists. If journalists can use authoritative sources’ names in news articles, it will especially transfer the responsibility of verification to the source, and journalists can avoid the risk of being sued and being accused of lacking verification. (2) With limited time, the authoritative source might be the only one that journalists can reach for help to verify. (3) The information that authoritative sources provide to all journalists is not exclusive, and it can always be used with the sources’ names, and so the news benefit and risks are low. (4) Journalists do not verify news that is beneficial to authoritative sources, because both its newsworthiness and its risk are low, and it might contribute to developing a good relationship with the authoritative sources. 

Third, this study emphasizes that verification, as an action, is future-oriented. We find that journalists might continue verifying even after some news articles have been published. This is because, in the process of news verification, journalists can continue to develop news stories as well as accumulate their domain and situational knowledge, especially their perception of authoritative sources’ authority and credibility. All such factors can help them to reduce the expense of verification in the future.

Our findings contribute to new knowledge on how journalists regard news verification as a future-oriented task and how journalists consider multiple contexts when they decide whether to verify or not. We suggest future research could explore the impact of field characteristics and journalists’ experiences on journalists’ verification decisions or use discourse analysis to study how journalists specializing in different fields employ discourse techniques to construct evidence.
2022/ 夏