By MELISSA MALLIN
Breaking news is a tough thing to cover. When a shooting takes place or someone tries to run down the White House, or a terrorist event such as 9/11 takes place, media outlets are quick to rush reporters to the scene.
But to what extent does the effect of immediacy play on the role of factual evidence?
There was once a time when news reporting was all about factual evidence. A story couldn’t be reported or published without having all the facts and have them correct. If some facts were questionable, it was wise not to include that part of the story. If the story was controversial or facts came from unreliable sources then, the story most likely didn’t get published.
But today, the mainstream media is all about immediacy. When a breaking story takes place, such as a shooting or terrorist attack, each media company rushes to get their reporters to the scene first. Once the reporter is on the scene, the camera turns on and the stream of false information begins.
For instance, 9/11 endured countless errors. To be short, one error said that the Pentagon had been bombed, when in fact, a plane had crashed into it. Another error indicated that Capitol Hill had been bombed when it hadn’t.
The JFK assassination is another example. Many reports went back and forth declaring Kennedy dead, then alive, then in critical condition. Another report said that Lyndon B. Johnson had been shot, though that was false. NBC radio even made the first unofficial ‘official’ announcement declaring Kennedy dead well before it was publicly known.
Another example involves the sinking of the Titanic. Fake telegraphs indicated that the ship had not actually sunk.
The last example involves the Truman election. Following the 1948 election, the Chicago Tribune front-page headline said, “Dewey defeats Truman” though the opposite was true.
So what does all this mean?
Personally, I would rather read about a breaking news story AFTER all the facts have been gathered. There’s nothing worse then stringing people along by either, not having accurate information or not having any information at all.
When media outlets release false, incorrect reports it does nothing more than harm their reputation and their credibility. When they make mistakes, reporters either have to clarify, correct or retract their story in order to protect the media company’s reputation. You would think, after having a few incorrect stories, or releasing stories with false information, that media companies and reporters would be more inclined to double check their facts before releasing future stories.
But this is not the case.
In fact, more media companies and even more reporters are so concerned with being the first ones on the scene, that they forget to check the quality of their facts or they simply lose focus on finding accurate evidence. They would rather interview someone on the scene that knows absolutely nothing about what’s going on, report about it, and then update or correct their previous statements.
When media companies do this, I lose interest. I’d rather wait to hear about a story with all the CORRECT, factual information, then to keep following a story (for days, weeks, or even months) to figure out what’s really going on. When reporters keep changing their information, it becomes that much harder to keep up with what reports are true, what reports are false, and what reports are somewhere in between.
In order to fix this, I think media companies should go back to the basics. They should allow the amateur reporters to release false information on Twitter and Facebook, while they collect the facts and focus on releasing stories with factual evidence instead of being the first to report it. If just one company did this, that company would be seen as the most credible. They may not be the first ones to release the story, but at least they would be the only ones releasing the story with hard, factual evidence, thus making them, the only media source reliable, and credible enough to believe their story.
For more information please visit http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/09/media-was-always-bad-reporting-breaking-news-brief-history/69464/