Originally posted on Science Tomorrow:
Humans make mistakes every day. In some professions, errors can be shrugged off as costly mistakes. “Geez, it looks like we’ve installed the processor incorrectly on the last 50,000 widgets. Need a re-do.” Nurses, doctors and others in the healthcare know much higher stakes: the tiniest missteps can put a life on the line. Hence, the humble checklist, so beloved by aviators, helps prevent an untold number of disasters. Journalists have an equivalent tool: it’s called fact-checking.
For good reason, the ghosts of lying journalists past haunted my undergraduate journalism education. Their names were spoken in a hushed tone. Janet Cooke, Stephen Glass, Rick Bragg. The Jayson Blair scandal at The New York Times erupted at the end of my sophomore year. (Unfortunately, there’s a long list of offenders – updated through 2007 only – compiled by the Freedom Forum.) I personally think Mike Daisey should bear a scarlet letter, thespian or not. A life-or-death threat rarely looms above a journalist as she tweaks here, borrows a bit from there, and slaps in some fiction for good measure. So another conscious-rattling consequence should be clear for journalists who plagiarize and fictionalize: a swift and total exile from non-fiction forever. No question. No meaningless mea culpas. Night has fallen for the moment on a particular journalism foundation in my eyes. I appreciate their response to the situation.
So I mean what I say in my tweet: