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Online Journalism Credibility Project: Breaking News
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Breaking News Without
Breaking Trust


Mitch Pugh, Editor,
Sioux City (Iowa) Journal and siouxcityjournal.com



How does a newsroom maintain ethical standards and credibility
when breaking news on digital platforms?

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Q&A with Mitch Pugh

Can you briefly describe your APME Online Journalism Credibility Project?
The goal of the project was to help guide newspapers as they develop policies
related to gathering and reporting news online. In order to do so, the project
aimed to bring readers into the conversation to help us improve our standards and
accuracy, control bias and better serve our diverse communities. Our discussions
focused on the credibility and ethical dilemmas presented by gathering and reporting
breaking news online.

Why did you choose this issue?
As our newsrooms are transforming into 24-7 information operations, we are facing unique
ethical and credibility issues. While many of the questions – at their root – are not new, the
time we have to make those decisions and the manner and which we execute those decisions
has changed dramatically.

How did you approach the issue?
We held a series of community roundtables in which we walked participants through a
common breaking news scenario to gauge their opinions on how and when to report information.
We also did independent research and conducted a survey of APME members to gather more
information.

What did you learn?
We expected many of our readers to be conservative in their approach, wary of new technology
and unsure of how the media should adapt to the rapidly changing world around it. We were
wrong. They differentiated between "information" and "news," meaning they recognized that in
breaking news situations, some content is not fully baked into a carefully crafted and complete
report.
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