Public Editor

Should websites be considered verified info?

Every year, The Star puts out a publication called the Johnson County Answer Book, offering a variety of information such as council members, City Hall addresses and other information for the many small cities that make up Johnson County.

As you can imagine, it’s a big job to verify all that, and to require corrections isn’t unusual. This year, though I’m struck by the fact that more than one of the details that were incorrect in the book came from official websites that also had it wrong.

The best example is that the Gardner Area Chamber of Commerce changed its name to the Southwest Johnson County Chamber of Commerce in February. However, the chamber’s own website bears no trace of that name change.

Still, an error is an error, and the corrections must run. But it poses a question: All sorts of organizations and businesses, especially those running on modest means, publish outdated info on the Web with no outward indication that it’s no longer valid. Should a journalist be able to take this public info as verified — when it’s coming from the entity itself? You can see how requiring a second step of verbal verification could easily spiral into an almost endless pursuit.