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Journalistic train wreck

S. Dakota Indian Foster Care 1: Investigative Storytelling Gone Awry by Edward Schumacher-Matos

A year long investigation led to a three part radio series with serious allegations of moral, financial and legal malfeasance.  The ombudsman of the news organization, NPR, then spent a year and a half investigating allegations that the substantial majority of the news report was misleading and factually incorrect.  As with any major dust-up there are points and counter-points.  It appears though that, on balance, the ombudsman is right, that the report departed from the organization’s own journalistic standards and ethics in material ways.

It is worth reading to reinforce 1) that there are always two perspectives (or more), 2) that even reporting from organizations with resources and a reputation for integrity can be dramatically wrong, 3) that misplaced and unquestioned assumptions were likely a material contributor to a journalistic train wreck, 4) that a compelling narrative arc is no substitute for factual accuracy, 5) that context is critical, and 6) journalistic accolades and awards can go to reports that are materially wrong.

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