Blog Discussion #1

Hi all —

Please weigh in on the comments section of this blog post with your thoughts on the decision by CBS to fire the reporter who made the inaccurate tweet about Joe Paterno.  DEADLINE:  Before the start of Thursday’s class.

 

Thanks,

Steve

 

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16 Responses to Blog Discussion #1

  1. I think this was the right decision by CBSSports.com. In the journalism world, we pride ourselves on speed, but also accuracy. If you’re trying to be the first one to break the story, you’d better be sure of the source’s validity. Additionally, CBS has a reputation for being one of the biggest news outlets while also being incredibly accurate.

    Like Erik Wemple, of the Washington Post said, “A firing sends a message that CBSSports.com cares more about its credibility than it does about one employee’s job security.” He went on to say, “Not only does CBSSports.com put on notice its employees that multiple sourcing matters, it puts on notice the entire industry.”

    I agree with the way the situation was handled. As a reporter, you don’t spread bad information to the public, it hurts you and your organization’s credibility. It also makes YOU look bad, so you’re going to lose your job for it. If CBS didn’t fire Jacobi, it would have had some negative publicity to deal with.

    Besides, CBS has the manpower to cover his job position until it hires a replacement. Plus its not like the organization won’t find a suitable replacement who won’t make the same mistake. There will be hundreds of people lining up for a job, which allows CBS some flexibility with their employee structure.

    Finally, how sorry can we really feel for Jacobi? He made a mistake that impacted a lot of people, especially the Paterno family. When you make mistakes, you get fired. Its terrible that it happened, but if I were CBS I’d fire the guy as a way of a) apologizing to the Paterno family b) putting its employees on their toes and c) re-setting an industry-wide standard that has sometimes fallen by the wayside during the days of digital journalism.

  2. Remy says:

    I think it’s good to send a message to the industry concerning regulation. The thing that separates CBS bloggers from other Twitter users is the supposed credibility associated with the organization. The message CBS is sending, like Wemple from the Washington Post was saying, is a message to the entire industry. Despite the casual delivery system and writing style of Twitter, news has to be held to the level of ethical strictness as it always has.

    As a journalist, Jacobi was probably expecting to be fired from the moment he found out his information was wrong. The false death of a sports icon and major figure in the news is a high profile slip up. Regardless of how lucrative it is to be the first one reporting it, a reporter has to have solid sources to make news like that public.

    • Anjulei Aurelio says:

      I also agree with you Jen.

      CBS needed to fire Jacobi in order to maintain their reputation. Accuracy is key to a great news story and had CBS not fired Jacobi it would have looked very unprofessional. For journalists there are no second chances, you have one shot to make your point clear and concise. And once its released there is no turning back.

      I definitely appreciate the way Jacobi handled this situation as well. But I do feel rather bad for him.

  3. stevejfox says:

    Remy —

    I’m not sure any journalist would be in support of government regulation, but in a sense this firing is a bit of self-regulation.

    Steve

  4. Dylan Merry says:

    Finally! The silence from CBSsports.com has been deafening, I’m glad they accepted responsibility and handled their business accordingly. I can’t say I’m surprised that this happened. When you falsely report the death of a college football icon, especially without a source, you’re fired. I am a bit surprised that it took so long to actually fire Adam Jacobi. When you are one of the biggest sports media outlets in the world, you expect accuracy when reporting.

    This brings up one of the major problems of multimedia journalism. It’s fantastic that social media sites like Twitter and Facebook can provide breaking news at lightning fast speed, but you have to be accurate in reporting. If I were a person of some sort of fame and sports knowledge and tweeted that “Eli Manning can’t play in the Super Bowl because of a stomach virus.” millions of people would immediately react to the news, and ESPN and all other sports markets would be in a frenzy.

    While social media websites have revolutionized the way we receive information, the public has to be very aware of all the information being publicized. At the same time, journalists using Twitter as one of their methods of broadcasting information need to confirm the information they tweet.

    • stevejfox says:

      Dylan raises a good point here. Unlike Onward State, CBS was hardly transparent about its processes surrounding their error. Do we think a firing is enough in this case or did we need to hear more from CBS?

  5. Daniel Lajoie says:

    I agree with the majority of what has been said so far. I think, ultimately, that Jacobi should have been fired for prematurely tweeting about the death of Joe Paterno.

    As you have said several times already in the class, it is better to be right than be first and incorrect. Jacobi should have verified the information before posting it on Twitter to a huge fan base. As Erik Wemple stated, it definitely puts the rest of the industry on notice.

    One thing I disagree with that Tyler said is that it had a big impact on the Paterno family. A media entity reporting that Joe Pa had died wouldn’t have even cross their minds if they are at the hospital with him praying that he gets better. After he died, they were probably grieving his loss rather than being upset that a reporter falsely tweeted he was dead. The media coverage he was receiving the months leading up to his death and the way he was treated by Penn State would have upset the family much more than Jacobi and Onward State.

    A few things that I found interesting within this story. This isn’t the first time that CBS has had to fire an employee for sending erroneous tweets. Shira Lazar was fired after saying the Steve Jobs died a month before he actually did. Is CBS going to have a seminar or try to preach incessantly to its’ workers to verify their information before tweeting it? You think it would go without saying, but CBS is now a repeat offender.

    Second, I was just curious to see if anyone from NPR was fired after they mistakenly reported that Gabrielle Giffords had died in the shootings in Arizona.

    Lastly, I just find the circumstances of this story to be weird. Onward State received an email saying that Paterno had died, but they later revealed that the email was a hoax? For being a hoax email, it was almost spot on. The original source must have had inside information because I know at least on a national scale, no one knew how grave Paterno’s situation was. I wasn’t even aware he was in the hospital.

  6. kdruar says:

    I think CBS made the right choice by firing the reporter. It is better to be right then first especially when reporting on someone’s death.
    As Dylan said, it’s great that we can get our news so fast through Facebook and Twitter now, but it also puts pressure on having the correct information fast which isn’t always the case.

    I also found it very interesting that this is the second time CBS has had to fire someone over tweeting a death that had not occurred yet. I don’t feel very strongly that either person needed to get fired, but I understand that CBS needed to take action. Because tweeting is a new form of news communication, I don’t think everyone understands the limitations of it. I would hope that not everyone would get fired for a misinformed tweet. But journalists need to prepare themselves now that writing 140 characters or less without checking your facts could cost you your job.

  7. zachweishar says:

    There is no doubt that Adam Jacobi should have been fired for mistakenly reporting the death of Joe Paterno. As responsible journalists we have to be sure to check the source of our information, probing beyond a reasonable doubt that it is true and factual. No reporter, especially not one working for a respected news organization should lift information from another publication without verifying that it is true.

    What ultimately bothers me is that CBS made no mention of Onward State, the organization that originally miss-reported the story, in the first story. However, once the information was found to be false, CBS was practically tripping over themselves to shift the blame to Onward State. Of course Onward State is at fault for publishing false information, but they deserve more leeway and forgiveness than a national news organization like CBS.

    CBS and Jacobi clearly understand what they did was wrong. This is further proven by Jacobi’s reaction to his firing. He was not angry or upset, he understood the decision had to made, and took it in stride. He said that he harbors no ill-will against CBS, and that is how it should be. Hopefully this incident will not ruin his career in journalism, because it seems certain that he will never make a mistake like this again.

    As for the potential damage to Paterno’s family though, I have to agree with Tyler. Of course his closest family knew that the report was false, but this is beside the point. It opened them up to a media storm at a time when they needed to be focusing on Paterno’s health. It is sad that they had to spend the last day of his life worrying about mistakes and false reports rather than the well being of a family member.

  8. Felicia says:

    I disagree with the decision to fire the reporter. Although the report was inaccurate, any published information or news content made public by a news organization should be fact checked and edited by at least one other person. The fact that the death was not investigated thoroughly was the reporters fault, however should have been further verified by an editor. There were multiple people not doing their job correctly and it is not fair that only one person has been fired.

    • stevejfox says:

      Felicia raises an interesting point here and one that is heard often when ethical lapses such as erroneous reports or plagiarism make it into the news. Twitter as a tool where for the most part journalists are flying without a net. It’s just not practical to have editors screen all tweets for news organizations. So, what else can be done? ESPN.com’s Twitter policy prohibiting news from being broken on its site via Twitter was roundly criticized last year but helps prevent errors like this from happening.

  9. alexahoyle says:

    I think that CBS Sports made the right choice by firing blogger Adam Jacobi. I feel that this was necessary to set a precedent for this sort of incident. The use of twitter in reporting the news is still relatively new and this incident somewhat sets new guidlines for what can and cannot occur when using twitter for a story. People see twitter as a way to be first when it comes to reporting breaking news, but more importantly than being first is being accurate.

    I also think that this showcases how quickly this business moves and how competitive it is. One day you have a job, the next day you mess up and you’re done. This is a profession where you really have to do your work and do it well. Mistakes aren’t tolerated.

    I find it a little concerning that this is the second firing CBS has had to do within the last 6 months that focused on a premature tweet about a death that turned out to be false. It shows a trend in the industry where people want to use these new technologies to be glorified as the “first” to report something.

  10. Micah Levine says:

    I think that firing Jacobi was the right thing to do for CBS. Firing him for the erroneous tweet is a way to retain credibility by accepting responsibility. It sends the message that they take fact checking seriously and that they are willing to implement consequences for inaccurate information.

    I also appreciate the gracious way that Jacobi handled it. He acknowledged that the mistake was his fault, and he seemed more than understanding of CBS’s decision to fire him. I honestly think it’s important for news organizations to hold strict rules regarding the publishing of inaccuracies, because without some kind of standard there isn’t a way to retain credibility.

    I do feel that this is a perfect example of how the internet has created a situation where things are too fast. The ability to publish something instantaneously makes it far more likely that things like this will happen.

  11. Melissa Gately says:

    I agree that CBSSports.com did the right thing in firing Jacobi. It just shows how cautious Journalists have to be with the new advances of technology and the instant access to the public.

    The first thing I was taught in my first Journalism class with Professor Perkins is to always check if your information is accurate. It shows journalists can’t assume anymore. Also I like how Tyler commented saying that firing Jacobi was like an apology for the Paterno family and I agree.

    Also mentioned in the article, CBSSports.com already had to fire Shira Lazar who falsely tweeted about Steve Jobs death. This shows consistency, that CBSSports.com is serious about firing journalists who report false information. It’s a good lesson to learn for upcoming journalists to know and be aware that it’s a serious matter and being accurate is vital for this profession.

  12. Jen Mageary says:

    I agree that CBS did the right thing in firing Jacobi. Like most of my other classmates have written, it was a statement to prove how serious CBS takes its reporting, and how unacceptable inaccuracy is to them. It is definitely concerning that this is the second firing over a misreported death over Twitter. This is obviously something CBS is going to have to look into, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a pattern. I think that mistakes like these, while unacceptable, are going to happen just because of the way the Journalism field is moving. The only way we can prevent silly mishaps like these are to stop worrying about being the person to break the story, and start worrying about covering the story correctly.

    As Micah stated, I can also appreciate how well Jacobi handled the situation. In all honesty, he had to have known he would lose his job after he found out his information was false. Every journalist knows that inaccuracy is one of the worst crimes you can commit when reporting on a story.

    No one on this thread has mentioned anything happened to whoever retweeted Jacobi at the Huffington Post. I wonder if they are being burned as well, because I haven’t heard anything about that.

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