Time crunches and fact checking


When the two bombs at the Boston Marathon went off on April 15, 2013, I was sitting in a class at my former high school, nearly 3,000 miles away. In less than half an hour, I found out about the bombing. Not from a teacher or announcement, nor a radio or television, but through a tweet sent out by CNN.

While only 8 percent of Americans use Twitter to receive news today, according to Pew research, that number is growing.

Part of the appeal is that Twitter and other online resources alike make circulating news faster now than it has ever been.

The beauty of a tweet is that journalists that have Twitter accounts can write and share a breaking story in seconds. Some will even send out a tweet directly after an interview.

Then to lessen the time frame between a journalist receiving knowledge and forwarding it to us is the matter of smartphones.

Anyone who carries a smartphone has access to these tweets in the literal palm of their hand. And it seems everyone today has a smartphone.

Business Insider estimated that about 22 percent of people in the world would own a smartphone by the end of 2013. Considering areas of the world where technology like this still isn’t available, it is reasonable to believe that if we looked only at Americans the percentage would be higher. Of course, if you’d like to see for yourself you could always glance around a college campus and try to count the number of students walking, smart phone in hand.

Simply enough, Twitter and others alike have made fast paced reporting something we’ve become accustomed to.

More and more immediacy from our news sources is something many of us expect. So, it’s no wonder why many reporters and news organizations make getting a story out quickly a top priority.

And while circulating information quickly may be important, one wonders what we lose when journalists spend less time with their stories.

According to Pew research, 75 percent of Americans don’t think journalists get their facts straight. Could this be an effect of rushed reporting?

The fact of the matter is when reporters are competing with one another to get the information out first; fact checking can take somewhat of a back seat.

This isn’t all speculation; in 2012, The New York Times asked in an Internet survey if reporters should fact check what politicians say. This question, I think brought to many peoples’ attention that fact that fact checking is no longer as important as it once was.

Many people took offense to the question and The Times received a number of sarcastic answers asking if they were joking.

What many reporters and readers may not consider is that there is a trade off between speed and fact checking. The faster a story breaks the less time was spent fact checking, where a story that may take longer to publish allows the journalist more time to fact check. This inverse relation means reporting a story quickly and thoroughly is a feat for any journalist.

However if many people are demanding both, just what exactly are journalists to do?

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