Speed vs. accuracy in business reporting
Paren Peterson, the managing editor of the Tacoma News-Tribune, writes Sunday about the desire to be first with a story compared to getting the story right.
Petersonw rites, “Their story began, ‘Today the City of Tacoma became among the first municipalities in the U.S. to have its credit rating on debt downgraded by Standard & Poor’s, following the downgrade of the U.S. credit rating Friday.’
“The story also contained this sentence, ‘In this case, it’s likely that S&P believes the City of Tacoma has a significant reliance on federal money and as a result, the federal credit downgrade impacts the Pacific Northwest city.’
“We hadn’t confirmed the story ourselves, but we knew readers would come to us looking for it.
“At 2:44 p.m., we posted this: ‘The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that the City of Tacoma’s credit rating has been downgraded from AAA to AA+ by Standard & Poor’s. This is a developing story. We will post more information as soon as it’s available.’
“It’s not common for us – but also not unprecedented – that we would share another news organization’s headline. It’s a way for us to let readers know we’re aware of a story and working on it ourselves.
“The problem, in this case, was that the story was wrong.
“After doing his own reporting, our business reporter C.R. Roberts posted a story that began, ‘The sky is not falling in Tacoma.
“‘A report by a Seattle business website did not provide the entire story Monday when it proclaimed that the city had its credit rating on debt downgraded by Standard & Poor’s.
“‘The investment ratings service did downgrade at least two City of Tacoma bonds – the repayment of which is tied to lease payments on Union Station due from the federal government.’
“It was the rating on those two bonds, not the entire city, that was downgraded.”