Accuracy means honesty, fidelity to facts, and humility on the part of producers and PBS staff to question their own assumptions about the subjects they are handling.
Accuracy includes more than simply verifying whether information is correct; facts must be placed in sufficient context based on the nature of the piece to ensure that the public is not misled. For example, facts can lack necessary context if they are presented in a way that omits important details, quotes someone without correctly reflecting what the person was asked, or distorts what occurred. Producers must also be mindful of the language used to frame the facts to avoid deceiving or misleading the audience or encouraging false inferences.
A commitment to accuracy also requires gathering, updating, and promptly correcting information as a story develops. Producers must exercise the highest level of care in verifying information, especially when it relates to any accusations of wrongdoing.
Guidance on how to put the principle of Accuracy into practice:
Implement Fact-Checking Procedures
Producers must implement rigorous fact-checking procedures to verify the accuracy of all factual assertions. As part of these procedures, producers should be able to identify the source for each asserted fact and why that source is reliable. As a general rule, at least two authoritative, independent sources should be on the record before controversial assertions are included in content for distribution by PBS. The accuracy of assertions by expert and non-expert interviewees should never be assumed, particularly if such assertions are contentious or otherwise questionable. Producers should also pay careful attention to the accuracy of names and titles, dates, places, statistics, and foreign language translations.
RELATED > Seeking To Cut Down On Corrections With A CQ from June 21, 2018 (NPR public editor)
Correct Errors Promptly and Clearly
Producers are responsible for correcting errors in a timely manner that is abundantly clear to the audience. Producers must immediately bring to PBS’s attention the discovery of any significant errors, and producers should regularly inform PBS of all other errors so that PBS can monitor trends and ensure accountability. Producers must also be responsive to the public when errors are brought to their attention, and in doing so, producers must closely cooperate with PBS in communicating any necessary corrections to the public.
RELATED > Betty Oops from Sept. 10, 2021 (PBS public editor)
Verify User-Generated Content
User-generated content consists of various materials created by members of the public, including videos and images, eyewitness accounts of events, and social media comments. Use of such content can be valuable, but producers need to act judiciously and proceed with caution before deciding to use material that they cannot independently verify. Producers should not assume that such content is accurate or authentic, and they should take reasonable steps to contextualize the content and to confirm its veracity. If producers decide that using such content will inform and educate the audience, producers must take care to describe where it came from, to what extent and how it was verified, and why they decided to include it. Whenever possible and appropriate, producers should seek permission from the originator of user-generated content for its use.
Do Not Stage Events
Producers should not stage events that did not occur or suggest that others stage events that did not occur for the sake of media coverage with the intent to mislead or deceive the audience.
Related Case Studies
Interactive scenarios involving the principle of Accuracy:
More in-depth exploration of the principle of Accuracy: