Lessons in reporting: Here’s to you, Dan Charles

Dan Charles, food and agriculture correspondent, NPR Morning Edition
Dan Charles, food and agriculture correspondent, NPR Morning Edition

I think NPR’s Dan Charles should win an award. Not just for writing or reporting – though I am certain he is deserving of awards in those categories. I have never followed Dan closely, although I enjoy his reporting on Morning Edition. But one of his stories last week has stuck with me for days now. Not because of the topic or content, but because Dan made three choices. He chose to:

  1. Admit that he had incorrectly reported something
  2. Educate himself and get to the bottom of the story
  3. Report a follow-up story, correcting himself and better educating listeners

After one of his stories about Iowa and farming and nitrates aired a few weeks ago, Dan received what he called a “disappointed email” from a listener, who was frustrated that he had blamed the nitrate problem on fertilizer only. The listener, an expert in this topic, hears this story all the time but knows that it’s not the whole story, and is having a hard time stopping the spread of false information.

I won’t go into the topic – click here to read the story if you’re interested. My interest is in how Dan responded. Instead of ignoring this email or getting upset, he says, “as soon as I read it, I knew that she had a point.” He did additional research, followed-up with the listener, and created a follow-up story to clear up the issue and help educate listeners.

When I heard this follow-up story on the radio one morning during my commute, I was floored. In a time when the news media is measured by how quickly news stories can be published, how much interest they can generate (shock factor is key), and how much money they can make for advertisers, it was so refreshing to see that there are still reporters working to get things right, dig deep and be a true resource.

Thank you for restoring my faith in the media industry, Dan. Here’s hoping more will follow your lead.

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