Case Study 2

1 Feb
So many red flags came up when I read “Jimmy’s Story.”
1. Were kids in the D.C. area under 10 years old really addicted to drugs?
2. Why didn’t Jimmy’s teacher feel the need to speak to his parents since he almost never attended school?
3. Do we really have “virtually no diplomatic ties” to Iran or Afghanistan, where we now have U.S. troops?
4. Would Ron really think it was okay for an 8-year-old to shoot up heroin?
5. Why can’t the government in D.C. “do anything about it”?
Laurie Phillips mentioned some valid points, which I can’t believe I overlooked, in her article as well. I think most copy editors today have been told to check mainly AP style, grammar, spelling and punctuation — the details of the copy. I think because copy editors are so wrapped up in this, they forget to look at the contents of the story — the copy itself. Unfortunately, I don’t think I was looking at the overall “big picture” in this story: how Jimmy was acting in front of the reporter, his eloquent quotes, etc. In addition, I don’t think I would have noticed that the reporter said Jimmy was an 8-year-old fourth-grader. He couldn’t possibly be in fourth grade, since he almost never attends school. As I looked “skeptically” at the story, there were some obvious questions that came to me, but the didn’t exactly materialize in my mind. I felt like a lot of things could be questioned. I just didn’t know if they were small details or if they were things to do with Jimmy himself.
Many editors, and people in general, tend to praise great writing when they see it and don’t really challenge it. Stephen Glass is a perfect example of this. Most of his stories turned out to be made up, and I think the New Republic’s staff learned a lot from having him there. I wouldn’t think a lot of reporters would even try to make anything up, since editors might find obvious errors, but the truth is fact-checking is just not up to par these days. Deep down, reporters like Janet Cooke probably know this and think they can get away with unbeliveable stories not unlike “Jimmy’s Story.”
Like the “Eagle Snatches Dog” story, the main problem here was editors not questioning the reporter’s work enough, plain and simple.

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