Pod people: Dolan’s Newsweek debut

As the Supreme Court hears arguments on the health care law this week, religious groups will be among those watching closely. Leading some of the response to the Health and Human Services ruling employers providing contraception, Timothy Dolan is likely to be among those particularly interested in the outcome. Last week, we looked at Newsweek‘s profile of the archbishop of New York, one that I thought did a nice job . After some less than ideal coverage of Dolan, it’s nice to see someone take a more thorough look from more sides, including historical and political. Read it again.

We also talked some about a story that turned out to be a hoax a year after the business was reported in several mainstream outlets. Remember Harold Camping, who suggested certain people would be raptured last year? A man supposedly set up a business to take care of pets for those who were raptured. He told reporters he had more than 200 clients and was especially saddened when Camping said he would no longer make such predictions.

How do journalists prevent these kinds of hoax stories in the future? As Ray Ingles asked in our earlier thread:

Journalism question – How much should reporters check on reported numbers, or do background checks? And under what circumstances?

From a GetReligion standpoint, for example, if doing a story about a new pastor or priest in the area, how much background check on their previous postings would be appropriate?

Reporters can do some digging, Mike Hickerson suggests:

Ray – regarding fact checking on the numbers, the RNS story about the hoax points to an easy-to-check resource for a lot of industries: public records and registrations. Most states and cities regulate a lot of industries and require permits for various types of businesses, especially “trust-based” businesses like insurance. It wouldn’t have taken too long to call up the NH Dept of Insurance and find out if the guy was registered.

It was thrilling to see some follow up stories on the business, but apparently it was too good to be true. I did wonder whether news outlets would either correct or update their stories in case someone found the stories later without seeing the updated RNS story.

Mike commented, “Someone at NPR must have been reading your post, because they have updated the original story with a comment at the top, though they don’t have a link to any of the new stories about the hoax.”

It’s a start, at least. Enjoy the podcast.

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  • http://www.iamtheangel.com/ Michael Stuart

    Listened to the podcast, great stuff!

  • Martha

    But are newspapers going to bother to do all that background fact-checking on “silly season” stories? The only reason a “Rapture Insurance For Pets” story got into the paper at all was because it was cheap, quirky filler that everyone could laugh at for being so daft; whether it was superior looking down your nose laughter at the idiots who believed in a rapture or just ‘there’s one born every minute’ laughter about a sharp operator.

    So it turns out not to be true – so what? The only thing that happened was that it made the reporters, not the ostensible purchasers of such a service, look silly for being taken in. Maybe it’s over-exposure to the redtops on this side of the water, but I have a feeling a lot of the checking on such stories amounts to “Can we get sued for it? No? Okay, go ahead!”

    Think of all the celebrity gossip that fills up the showbiz pages – X has a new boyfriend! X has broken up with new boyfriend! Is X pregnant? Will X get back together with boyfriend? Do you think, based on this photo, that X is expecting twins? All liberally garnished with “sources near to X say/deny” and “close friends claim” that X is dating/not dating/breaking up with/getting back together with Y. There have been simultaneous stories about how ‘female celebrity whomever’ could have an eating disorder based on how thin she looks in a photo and could be pregnant based on how fat she looks in a photo.