Case Study 1

24 Jan

Eagles, Dogs, Questions and Answers

I initially struggled to use Quora, but I soon found several answers in different topics. My own questions (about how ridiculous a story has to be to invite scrutiny and about the kinds of eagles that live in Alaska didn’t get responses, however. However, I noticed another question (can an eagle carry a small dog – this one was NOT my own) got a response which confirmed the possibility of a dog being taken. I couldn’t verify the credentials of the respondent.

My questions to the reporter and editor would certainly take timeliness into account. As an interest story about a couple who weren’t from the area, it might be conceivable to push the story back a day to get all of the facts straight. The problem is, in the current climate, a premium has been placed on getting news fast, when it’s not necessarily accurate. My worry is that, as discussed in class, the reporter and editor were blinded by the novelty of the story.

If we were operating in 2012, I’d ask the editor to cross-check the story’s subject matter with national news archives online. In this case, were the story real, there could be a chance that the dog-snatching was not the first. The Snopes article mentions several actual cases where dogs were carried for short distances by birds of prey.

If there’s one thing I learned from so much time with Prof. Foley, it’s “get the dog’s name”. I would’ve done everything I could to make contact with the couple and learn more about their lives and their pet. In cases like this, the veracity of the matter is often only a phone call away.

The eagle raises another set of questions; these are the ones we used Quora to help with now, but when the story was published I would’ve probably called a wildlife specialist to help identify the eagle. I’m fairly certain the bald eagle is not the only raptor native to the Valdez area.

Of course, to positively identify the bird we’d need an eyewitness account, which leads to our gas station attendant. I’d be very suspicious that the gas station in the story had no address or brad name listed; if there really was a dog-eating eagle on the loose, it would be in the public interest for pet owners to know which station to avoid. Identification would also be useful because it would help the editor confirm that the station attendant existed.

Overall, as with most mistakes, it’s relatively easy to correct the story in hindsight. However, with the decreased size of the news cycle in the Internet age, journalists have less time to fact-check. So while they may wish to be more cynical about their news, a different challenge arises in having news personnel who are tech-savvy enough to back up their work.


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