Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Get It Fast, But Get It Right

One thing that always bothers me about violence in the news is the rush to provide answers when we don't have them yet. It happens all of the time; the most recent shooting in Colorado is just another example. Any big news story is prone to errors. Sometimes, you just get things wrong.

In today's hyper-fast, super-connected world, you just can't do that any more. The Affordable Care Act ruling, for example, was a huge error in reporting from CNN and Fox. They got it the absolutely backwards. In the Colorado shooting, ABC accused the wrong man of being the shooter. Their reporter on the air even said, basically: "We don't know if this right, but let's throw it out there and see what happens."

The news is, in a way, a race. If you break a story, it can make your career. You can get movies made about you and live on easy street. You can get people to leak information to you and break more stories. It's a great cycle.

But, when you're wrong? In today's day and age... not much really happens. NBC can edit tapes without letting listeners know, and all that happens is a few nameless people get shuffled to a new job. As I was typing this, a perfect example demonstrated itself on Twitter. Here's the tweet. Here's the story. If you read the tweet, what do you think?

Well, that a Romney aide is citing Romney's Anglo-Saxon heritage for something. The story however is clear that it is the exact opposite; that an anonymous source that makes this claim is being rejected by the campaign. It's just sloppy reporting. ABC has good people on its staff; this sort of sloppiness should not be sneaking out. Anonymous, unsourced, comments, rejected by the candidate, somehow are news. Not only that, but the comments are blatantly racial. The journalist who initially printed that should never have went with something so incendiary without having a name willing to be put with the quote, if he even had a quote. But, it is more important to be first rather than right.

Journalists need to be a bit more skeptical. Folks: If it is too good to check, you should probably check it.

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