By Ayi Jufridar
THE QUESTION above is not easy to simplify by choosing either or both. In the world of journalism, both are important and become inseparable parts. Fast and accurate is the ideal choice desired by all companies. But often journalists are faced with the choice of one which makes them lose public trust.
In the midst of increasing media competition, all want to claim themselves as the fastest. Especially for online media, the urge to present news as soon as possible (real time), often makes media saggy in accuracy. For news portals, the principle of broadcasting firstly then cannot be followed because it will mislead the reader and also undermine the credibility of the media concerned.
In a variety of large incidents, portals are often in a hurry to present the news because there is more value if it becomes the first media to know. Even though it is still short, the news is still airing because there is still a follow up with the next information. As if by the link, various errors in information and data can be forgiven after being corrected in the next news — sometimes without correction of information. There is an assumption, the important thing is that the news reaches the public first.
The accuracy problem is second. Of course this is wrong if it is associated with a code of ethics and moral journalism in providing information to the public. As Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel say in the Nine Elements of Journalism: The essence of journalism is discipline in verification.
In the 2013 floods in Aceh Tamiang, a leading national news website reported hundreds of residents in a remote village thought to have died from being trapped for days. The news was shocking because it was quoted by many other media so that it spread quickly, plus the tendency of readers to share news with large magnitude to various social media through devices. The editors in Jakarta called their correspondent who did not broadcast the news. They feel cheated.
At a glance, there is nothing wrong with the news. Perhaps journalists do not need to feel guilty about the phrase "alleged" in the headline. The contents of the news were not a problem, because it was mentioned that the information came from members of the RAPI (a radio communication organization in Indonesia) network located around the location. Somehow the conversation of the journalist with the RAPI members resulted in horrendous news that was later proven wrong.
The problem is in the low discipline of verification in journalists. There was no attempt to find out the truth of this information from other sources — to go directly to the location was indeed difficult and dangerous. Only later did rebuttal news from the local government and PMI volunteers.
Unfortunately, journalists are no longer able to correct the concerns that are already happening in the community - especially the families of disaster victims. News sites that can be accessed anywhere and then shared through various social media, have a wider impact than print media that are limited in circulation. The broader the news circulates, the higher the hit, the wider the impact of the false news and the more difficult it is to correct it.
Sensational news like that attracts the attention of readers even though it is not credible in terms of journalism. Journalists must avoid sensational news before verifying with a variety of trusted sources. If the intended broadcast of the news invited the attention of the masses, perhaps that goal had already been achieved. However, the media is not credible and cannot be used as a reference for citizens.
Media companies should have a standard in verifying every story even in areas of conflict and disaster, or when covering major accidents. The standard concerns how the attitude of journalists in treating and testing the truth of the information they receive, contacting competent speakers, to verifying it in the field. Journalists cannot just rely on instincts to sip information before processing it into a story.
These standards are needed because journalists often deal with special situations in the field that require special skills and attitudes. When a media company educates its journalists with standardized standards in testing the validity of information, accuracy and completeness of the data, in the end it will shape the character of journalists who are disciplined, intelligent, and critical of information — especially if it comes from dubious sources. The more experienced a journalist, the smarter he should be doing assessing the information received (Laksono, 2009).
Being a journalist doesn't always talk about technical reporting, interviews, and writing news. In an era of information flooding like now - where every become a "journalist" by sharing information in cyberspace - a professional journalist needs more expertise in work, including more responsible for the impact of the news he wrote.
Standard standardization to produce an accurate story might sound excessive — so it's no wonder that many media companies don't have it. Many feel that it is enough just to confirm it to fulfill the principle of balance and present different information from different sources on the same issue. But in certain situations, confirmation is simply inadequate. Balance and accuracy are two different things. A balanced news is not necessarily accurate, it may even be more confusing to the reader because two conflicting sources will accuse each other.
Likewise, many media companies do not have good information management. Only big companies do it — perhaps because this is why they become big. All media companies should have complete information and data management systems and not rely solely on search engines which sometimes lead us to misleading information and data for ourselves and readers. With the advancement of information technology today, it is certainly not difficult to build an information and data management system which is then energized with the media library.
It contains various information and data both of which have already been published by the media themselves and other media. The results of interviews with various sources (of course not all results of interviews need to be saved), photo recordings of sources and events, and so on. This data and information will be useful in responding to the dynamics of rapidly changing issues, changes in legal compliance, changes in natural and geographical conditions, even to prove the lie of a resource person.
With the management of data and information, media companies can manage and map issues that are and will develop. Good media doesn't just follow the agenda of others and expect news to come down from the sky. As a moral responsibility to assist the community in organizing their lives, the mass media must have a clear agenda that synergizes with the agenda of other parties both locally, nationally and internationally. Data and information that is constantly updated, become the wealth of media companies to continue to grow. Companies that treat data and information neatly, are also likely to treat their employees well beyond expectations in the legislation.
Well, what if these standards and data and information management systems are not owned by the company?
Journalists themselves can do it. If it is troublesome to manage all the news sections, there is no harm in starting with a particular news topic that the journalist specializes. This data and information can be a reference for writing a book. And writing a book is the highest achievement that a journalist must achieve. In the era of tsunami information through the internet network as it is now, it is increasingly difficult for citizens to distinguish valid information, propaganda, or rumor.
Kovach and Rosenstiel (2012), suggest that citizens should not read foul information. This is where citizens need journalists to check the authenticity of information, so that they can distinguish between facts, opinions, and rumors. When journalists are lazy to check accuracy and lazy to sort out information that is really needed by citizens, then there is a degradation of the function of journalists for the community.
To manage network
One of the characteristics of professional journalists is having a wide and strong network with various sources. Broad network strength cannot be obtained in a short time. This is the result of years of work in building networks based on mutual trust (Fleeson, 2007). Journalists who have a wide network of sources are relatively easy to get confirmation.
In addition, the quality of journalist writing is determined by the quality of the source (Iswara, 2011). This is where the perseverance of journalists is needed in quoting true and competent sources. Occasionally, journalists prefer to cite sources who are willing to speak even though their talk is inconsequential compared to competent sources but rather difficult to contact them. Accuracy in using sources often slackens when the media crammed with time.
Often, journalists who have already built a network with sources have to start from scratch when transferred to other parts. For this condition, usually a journalist asks the help of his colleague who originally served in the section he will be assigned. This is commonly done. But it will be even more helpful if the company has data and close relationships with important sources. The pattern of the relationship is not the journalist with the resource person, but the company with the resource person. The assigned journalist then strengthened the relationship.
Periodically, journalists must contact the interviewees even though there is no news to be confirmed. This attitude is carried out only to maintain good relations or trust with sources. As personnel in media companies often change jobs, certain positions in other institutions also change frequently so it is important to renew the network. The vast network of resource persons also becomes an advantage for certain media to get exclusive news, thereby strengthening the network with sources.