How can you avoid being suckered by sources or stampeded by the competition? Do your own homework. That’s the advice from Stuart Taylor of the National Journal. His book about the Duke lacrosse case, “Until Proven Innocent,” says the news media blew it. “Read the damn motions,” Taylor–who is also a lawyer–told American Journalism Review:
If you’re covering a case, don’t just wait for somebody to call a press conference. Read the documents…We should never take a prosecutor’s word as fact…Yes many defense lawyers will say almost anything to get their clients off most of the time, but don’t just ignore what they say. Look at what they’re telling you. And do they have the evidence to back it up?
It’s not easy to question conventional wisdom, but it’s the best way to make sure your reporting is fair. One investigative journalist we know says he works just as hard to prove a story wrong as he does to prove that it’s right. No story should ever be “too good to check.”