When I worked on my first book Don't Believe It!: How lies become news, I had no shortage of hoaxes to work with. Hoaxes that were reported as fact, and it was a shockingly common occurrence. In fact, I had to leave more examples out than I actually had in my book because it would have been overwhelming to readers.
I wanted the book to be instructive by showing the red flags to look for when evaluating information. The original intent was to create a textbook for journalism students so that they would be educated on that important aspect of fact-gathering.
Needless to say, that angle was rejected by every publisher, citing that verifying information wasn't a problem because journalists always report truth.
So I had to flip the focus by showing audiences how to do it instead -- and that's when I found a publisher for the book.
But the absolute denial of the problem by the profession is still evident -- and there are still countless hoaxes and lies in the news to this day.
Let's take this article on the CBC for example:
Did former Canadian ISIS member lie to the New York Times or to CBC News?
Granting sources anonymity can lead to good stories, but it can also lead to less accountability
Now, this isn't an article about a source lying to two mainstream and large outlets and they caught him before publishing their stories.
This is asking the question after stories were made public.
After publication is known as "too late" -- the episode is as irresponsible as it gets.
But here we have two outlets: one Canadian, one American. One is a national television network. One is a major daily newspaper that put out a podcast.
And they are both equally credulous and unfit to call themselves an journalism outlet.
This was not a time-sensitive story. They first thing to do is to verify and nail as many specifics as possible. You look for inconsistencies and red flags. You do not look for narrative -- you look for facts.
When stripped of narrative, fact-checking becomes the focus -- but when it is all about the get and the story, verification becomes a difficult undertaking.
And there is no excuse for it.