Thanks For Getting So Many Things Right : Memmos Standards & Practices Editor Mark Memmott writes occasional notes about the issues journalists encounter and the way NPR handles them. They often expand on topics covered in the Ethics Handbook.
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Thanks For Getting So Many Things Right

When news is breaking, we tell listeners and readers that we'll do our best to be accurate – but that it's a developing story and some things that get reported may later turn out to have been wrong.

Wednesday's shootings in Alexandria tested us again. From this vantage point, it looks like we did remarkably well. Some important things were kept in mind (and are important to remember for the next time):

- We went to eyewitnesses and kept the discussions to "what did you see?"

- We stuck close to the language that police officials and other authorities were using to report what was "known." Rumors and comments beginning with "I'm hearing that ..." weren't passed along.

- When the shooter's name started to appear in other media, we worked our sources to confirm rather than go with what others were saying.

- As the shooter's Facebook page started to circulate, we tapped the expertise of our social media team to do what we could to verify it was his. And we were careful to use such words as "purported to be" when there was any smidgen of doubt.

- We used our Visuals team to think through how to handle the videos and other material that were popping up on social media and other news sites.

- Speaking of social media, we steered clear of unverified accounts – but followed what was being posted to get leads that we could run down ourselves.

- We stuck with words such as "suspect" and "alleged" a little longer than many other outlets. That's OK. It's better to be cautious than to have to go back to correct.

- There wasn't unfounded speculation about a motive in our reports. We kept to the facts as they came in.

I'm surely missing many other important steps we took to keep things straight.

Thanks.