It may seem obvious, but every journalist knows that the most important detail about reporting is to ensure that your facts are correct, but issues still pop up even in National news.
Even the most seasoned journalists can run into issues when reporting, sometimes missing a beat when vetting a source about their reliability or credentials. One such journalist has made headlines in the past few days after reporting false information while covering a story for one of the most well respected news organizations in the world. This slip up, although avoidable, is a reminder to all other practicing journalists to remain vigilant while reporting a story and to fact check as much as possible to ensure that you are reporting nothing but the truth.
Lara Logan, a seasoned war correspondent for CBS News and 60 Minutes, was asked to take a leave of absence earlier this week after details emerged about the falsity of a story she reported on Benghazi for 60 Minutes. Logan’s producer, Max McClellan who also worked on the story as asked to take leave as well.
Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News and executive producer of 60 Minutes, announced the move this past Tuesday.
“There is a lot to learn from this mistake for the entire organization. We have rebuilt CBS News in a way that has dramatically improved our reporting abilities,” Fager wrote in a memo. “Ironically 60 Minutes, which has been a model for those changes, fell short by broadcasting a now discredited account of an important story, and did not take full advantage of the reporting abilities of CBS News that might have prevented it from happening.”
The report, which aired on Oct. 27, was supposed to be the first Western eyewitness account of the attack on the U.S. compound that left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Logan interviewed an ex-security officer named Dylan Davies who gave differing stories to both the FBI and 60 Minutes.
The Washington Post and The New York Times both reported the inaccuracies of the story in early November, leading CBS News to announce that they would be issuing a correction. The following day, Logan appeared on “CBS This Morning” to apologize for the mistake.
The internal investigation conducted by CBS News found that the production team did not properly vet Davies. Due to this mistake, he was used as an integral part of the story even though his own accounts of his actions and whereabouts during that night were false.
We still wait to see whether Logan and McClellan will lose their jobs as they take their leave of absence, but it’s clear that CBS News is taking this issue very seriously. With Logan’s long list of reporting accomplishments over the years, having reported from war torn countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Tanzania and Kosovo, you would expect that she vet her sources more carefully, but every once and a while someone will fall through the cracks. This should be a cautionary warning to all other journalists to fact check their sources carefully.