Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Editing lesson - why Goog is not enough

Here's a lesson for your editing classes - or for any journalist, for that matter - as to why relying on Google (or any other single source, especially in these days of ubiquitous data that also contains easily propagated errors).

I gave my editing class a simple car-train accident story the other day. It happened on Bonhomme Richard Drive in Lexington County. But many students went into a tizzy because it was listed differently on Google:

Now, those of us who've been around awhile probably have some sense that Goog was in error. If you have a sense of French, you know it's Bonhomme Richard, or maybe stuck back in the corners of the brain is the factoid that several U.S. warships have had that name.

But these days it is easy - and imperative - to check multiple sources. In the editing room, we have paper maps on the wall (I know, how quaint, except Google does not list county boundaries or subdivisions, both important for a local journalist.)

A quick run over to Mapquest shows this (which is also on that paper map):

And just running "Bonhomme Richard Lexington" through a Google and Bing search pulls up numerous real estate listings with the correct name.

Of course, preponderance of the evidence is not good enough in journalism, so my students should have checked with us, which some did. But the disappointment was that they were relying only on Google. What if I had put "Richard Bonhomme" in the copy? They most likely never would have asked.

Anyhow, victory is ours! OK, too much caffeine there so early in the morning. But Goog did confirm the error once I pointed it out.

I hope you'll find this useful as an example you can use in class and elsewhere.

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At 11/22/11, 12:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even though Google may not be a good primary source, I feel it is a good place to start when doing research for news stories. I also find the Google news section to be helpful.

At 11/22/11, 5:42 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

Couldn't agree more. A person would be stupid to not use all the tools.

Google Scholar is a godsend for reporters looking for academic sources.

Use Wikipedia, too.

But don't make any of them the only thing. I thought this illustrated well why that should be. :)


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