From the J-listserv of the National Writers Union of which this writer is a member:

Dear NWU Journalism list members (hoping you’re still out there!),

I recently published an article with a music magazine–a profile of an up-and-coming artist. Unfortunately, two factual errors turned up in the published piece. One was a misunderstanding between the editor and me; the other was an honest oversight on my part. It was (understandably) embarrassing to me. I later received an email from the artist, who said (rightly) that I had never run the final draft by her before submission. If I had, the errors would have been caught. The reason I didn’t run it by the artist was mostly due to my own ego: I was trying to stay “objective,” to play the role of a “professional” journalist. The piece, however, was not so much a review as a profile, so my opinion played only a small part. Nonetheless, I wish now I had run the piece by the artist.

My question is, what are the ethics or proper conduct in consulting the artist? It seemed to me the artist and I, after hours of interviewing, had formed a nice relationship. Then by my “professional” behavior, I built a wall between us. Should I have just forgotten the damn “etiquette” and shown the artist the draft? It would have prevented the problems.

I will appreciate all good input.

His name is not important. But he was concerned about issues that are universal. This writer’s response:

The following response is based on my experience as a journalist at a Gannett newspaper in Rochester, NY;  The Washington Star in D.C., when it was alive and owned by Time magazine; Time, New York Post  and two nonfiction books by William Morrow and several years of teaching journalism and talking to journalists, attending workshops, conferences, blogging, etcetera:

1) What were /are the editorial guidelines for the publication? What were/are your editorial guidelines? Did/do you discuss these with your source(s) before you interview? Did you discuss these with the publication?

2) A fact checker at The Columbia Journalism Review many years ago contacted me about an article being published about me* and read to me all of the passages in which I was directly quoted. She would not discuss passages in which I was indirectly quoted. She did not tell me the gist of the article. She said at the time that what she was doing was according to CJR policy. By then, I had been a journalist for several years and didn’t realize that legitimate publications actually did that.**

3) In an early edition of The Investigative Reporters Handbook by the IRE, an author stated that for complex stories, sources identified in the story should be allowed to read the story before it is published in order to avoid mistakes. I learned of that practice shortly after I had learned of the CJR policy.

4) Now that I primarily blog and post on listservs and other Internet media, I am quick to apologize when I make a mistake. And I make it a big deal. That is, I have treated the corrections or clarifications as a big deal.**

5) I wouldn’t have shown the artist the draft though I might have gone over some parts.

6) So far, I haven’t done any harm.

And so it goes.

* The article was about an EEOC suit i was filing against a weekly news magazine.
** Some news organizations cut deals with their sacred cows.

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