It's no secret that it's a dangerous time to be a journalist. Now, in the era of "fake news," it's even more important for us to be accurate and unbiased. On this page, I have compiled various examples in which I've set my bias aside to factually report the news,
The little things
Regardless of what story I'm writing, there are several things I do on a daily basis to ensure I am staying objective and 100 percent factually correct. View examples of a few of them below; click the photos to enlarge.
Throughout my time on staff, I've learned that if I'm even slightly questioning a fact, I have to look into it. As I write and rewrite my stories on Google docs, I comment on any information that I feel I need to verify. Once I make sure that it's correct by listening back to my interviews, asking follow-up questions or using another valid source, I resolve the comment. Below are all of the comments I made to fact check my coverage of a city commission meeting for The Collegio.
In order for readers to trust a journalist's work, they must know where all of their information is coming from. Over-attributing is better than under-attributing. I spend lots of time attributing facts to my sources. This ensures that I stay objective and that the facts don't fall back on me, but on my source. Once I complete a story, I go back to all of my recordings and documents to fact check. As an example, below is the first page of my story covering road safety at PHS. All of the attributions are highlighted.
3. Staying objective
During my sophomore year, when I realized that I was serious about journalism and wanted to pursue it as a career, I made the decision to stop posting my political opinions online. As a very opinionated teenager, this was a hard decision for me to make. However, I'm a firm believer that what we post online says a lot about who we are as journalists. If students were consistently reminded of what side I leaned towards by social media, they wouldn't have been as comfortable coming to me with their ideas. You can view my social media accounts by clicking on the icons at the footer of this website.
Avoiding bias: "Aftermath"
As published in the February 2018 issue of The Booster Redux
ABOUT: There were several things I had to take into consideration while I was writing this follow-up article regarding parents' and students' concerns over a new curriculum and teaching system that our math teachers implemented at the beginning of the year. I have numbered all of them below:
1) It was very easy for me to develop a bias while writing this story, as I had only heard negative things about the curriculum from my friends and other students. However, I set all of these thoughts and comments aside and approached my interviews with an open mind. I spent two lunch periods interviewing random students. I heard countless outlooks, all of which I included in the story. I also followed up with the students we featured in our first article on the curriculum in its beginning stages.
2) Most of the math teachers were very emotional about this curriculum, so I decided to go the extra step and look into the method from the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) that the teachers claimed to be using. I also researched the Kansas State Department of Education's (KSDE) standards. I included my findings at the beginning of the story.
After my article printed, I received compliments from community members about how balanced and informative it was. View the packaged story, which ran front page, below:
"District approves Bressler's letter of resignation, contract effective through June"
As published on boosterredux.com on Jan 15, 2019
ABOUT: It's important for student journalists to fact check even the simplest of remarks, and my coverage of our head principal's resignation is an example of that. In our first interview, he claimed that he was resigning because he wanted to use his district leadership license to become a superintendent. However, after speaking with him, I went onto KSDE's License Lookup webpage to fact check his statement and I couldn't find any record of a district leadership license in his name. Concerned, I printed out a copy of the lookup page and scheduled a follow-up interview with him. When I confronted him, he explained that his license had expired and he just hadn't renewed it yet, pointing to his record of expired licenses on the lookup paper. He applied to renew it this month and was waiting for a response, which is why it hadn't shown up on KSDE's website yet.
I thought of what would have happened if it had gone the other way. I was happy that I took the initiative to look into his licensure. Writing this story reminded me of the true purpose of journalism — to ask the tough questions that others can't. Click the image below to read the story on our website.
"Learning to love yourself for who you love"
As published on boosterredux.com on July 7, 2018
ABOUT: For this story, an LGBTQ+ student opened up to me about his dark experiences with substance abuse and suicide. Though I had interviewed him multiple times and listened to back to our interview recordings, this was a very emotional story for a minor to share with our newspaper, so I wanted to make sure that everything was factually correct. Additionally, I wanted to verify that he was comfortable with such sensitive information being published online.
Before we published the story, I called him and read the opening of the article out loud to him. He affirmed that all of the details were correct and that he was comfortable with it. Though it's unusual for me to read my article to my source, I felt that his sensitive story was an exception. I value my sources as people, not just bits and pieces that make up my article, and this story is a great example of that. Click the image below to read it.