News, News, and More News
News is an essential part of society. I tend to think that we have news overload, but it’s something that everyone craves. It drives us. But I was thinking: what is more important, having news that the most timely, or news that is complete and accurate? It bothers me because many of us rely on this reporting, and we need to know it is good, reliable news.
This reminds me of the broadcaster who was fired for reporting news that was patently flawed and inaccurate. Do you remember the Laura Logan story? Logan, employed by CBS (60 Minutes), embellished a report on the controversial Benghazi incident that subsequently cause the network to suspend her. She didn’t just embellish a little bit. It was enormous. She was suspended for several weeks. Some thought she should have been fired because her faux pas was so egregious, due in large measure because she allowed information to be aired that she knew was inaccurate and that could have been tainted by her husband’s influence. Her husband was a defense contractor with close ties to the incident. This is one of a multitude of examples of errant stories. Most aren’t as epically flawed as this one.
As much as we want information that mirrors the truth, each news outlet wants to be the first to report breaking news stories. The local NBC affiliate in Washington, DC often boasts “First on 4” as a mantra. You’re likely to hear it several times during a broadcast. I have also seen other reporters say, “You heard it here first.” And this creates another problem. Those people and those second rate news outlets that look for interesting stories to share. These seemingly intelligence people share things without first vetting them correctly to ensure their accuracy.
I think it’s safe to say that we really do need accuracy in new reporting. If it isn’t the first report, so what? At least it’s accurate. During the month of June, I kept track of the number of times I heard or read a news report that was retracted due to inaccuracies. Most of them were benign, but there were 27 ranging from television, local and national news programs, and print news publications. One thing is certain, they are consistent. All of them want to be first. Maybe all news professionals should routinely review the Ethics Statement of the Associated Press. These should be the driving principles for all print and broadcast journalists.