Comment 121479

By Haveacow (registered) | Posted May 05, 2017 at 08:31:39

I have a friend of mine who works for the Ottawa Citizen (Ottawa's largest circulation major daily newspaper). We have had conversations about not just the lack of fact checking in op-ed articles but reporter submitted articles as well.

  1. During Ottawa's LRT vs. BRT debate during the 2006-2010 period, I was astounded around how the paper would print huge number of factual mistakes, on both sides of the arguments. My friend explained that, most were done to just make the articles fit a certain number of words. Reporters for example, leaving out key important sub-textual facts that explained some of the more mystifying technical points of rapid transit operating technology. The paper figures you are smart person and you will eventually figure it out, although some members of the public never do.

  2. Newspapers just don't have the numbers of staff anymore (editors and so called "fact checkers") because of employment costs. There are many professional grade computer programs that can correct grammar and spelling but it is largely the responsibility of the reporter or submitter to do most of the fact checking today.

  3. When stories are essentially assigned to reporters, very few have any experience and sometimes even the barest amount of interest in rapid transit operating technology. It's no surprise that the story might have a few errors when a junior reporter has little knowledge or excitement of the articles subject.

In the fall of 2013 on a rainy cold weekend, the City of Gatineau opened their version of the Ottawa's Transitway it is called Rapibus (Gatineau is name of the city across the Ottawa River from Ottawa). On the same weekend the Ottawa Citizen had an article about the local Ottawa Sex Show (Ottawa Sexapalooza I believe it was called and was marketed primarily at women). The person who wrote the sex show article opened with the comment that she had been given the choice of doing an article on the sex show or the opening of the new Transitway in Gatineau. She joyously chose the sex show and stated this point in her article several times. So the Rapibus System opening was probably not given to someone who even wanted the story. The Sex show article was standard throw away weekend garbage but the Rapibus article although filled with many unchecked technical errors, got front page coverage because one of the STO's buses had a traffic accident at a level crossing between the Rapibus Line and a important cross street on the opening day (The STO or the Societe de transport de L'Outaouais, is Gatineau, Quebec's transit provider).

  1. Some newspapers have a target audience and giving them hard facts is sometimes not appreciated. I once wrote a transit article to a local paper about Ottawa's Rapid Transit debate during that 2006-2010 period. It was rewritten several times not because of grammar or issues with my lack of professional writing credentials, the article had and I quote, "too many big words!" I kid you not. I asked if the article was being written for younger teens, tweens maybe or outright children? "No, young adults", I was told. "University or College aged adults", it was explained to was the main audience for the article. I asked for clarification and ideas, what was given to me as an example was the most patronizing, mind numbingly stupid series of sentences I had ever seen. The editor further stated, "This is what are target audience wants, expects and what they are capable of understanding." Thoroughly amazed, I wrote an article at about a 3rd or 4th grade reading level. That article which was eagerly accepted by the paper.

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