Thursday Assignment: Class Blog Discussion #1

Please read: “Errors in Newtown Shootings Coverage Reflect Growing Pressures,” and then share your thoughts on the speed vs. accuracy debate on the comments section of this blog post.

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11 Responses to Thursday Assignment: Class Blog Discussion #1

  1. I think this article really sheds light to how dangerously fast the world of journalism is moving today. It seems like journalists are so eager to be the first to break the news, and that’s O.K, as long as their reports are accurate. The article lists at least six links to articles that had to be later corrected for publishing incorrect information on the day of the Newton shooting, and even quotes the Times as they apologize for the several news stations that reported unreliable information for the sake of time. What the article also mentions that the Times was one of these news stations to break the news with details that later had to be corrected. When I was watching the breaking news on the day of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings I remember several news stations naming the gunman as Ryan Lanza, not Adam Lanza (his brother and the shooter). I thought to myself, how can a news station throw out a name of a shooter if that information is still unconfirmed? And furthermore, for several news stations to mention the possibility of Adam Lanza having a psychological disorder, adding Aspergers or Autism to the spectrum of speculation, seemed to be taking the story too far. All of these details had not been confirmed and to throw these details into a story that was, at the time, still very much misconstrued, appalled me. Did the speculation that Adam Lanza had a possible disorder even remain relevant to the breaking news of the story at the time? Or was it more so misleading for viewers to take into consideration? What are your thoughts?

    After reading the article and understanding the dangers of jumping to report a story, I agree with the article that “It’s always better to be slower and right than faster and wrong.”

  2. After reading Margaret Sullivan’s New York Times opinion piece on publishing a story quickly rather than accurately, I can agree on several of her arguments.

    I remember I was home in California when the Newtown, Conn. shooting occurred. My twitter feed was immediately filled with all sorts of facts which later ended up being inaccurate. I remember texting my friend at Stanford different reports that I had heard from twitter and on the news, which in the end were not true. These included reports that the shooter used a rifle and that the shooter’s mother was a teacher at the school where the massacre occurred.

    After several hours, the details of the event changed drastically and I had to text my friend again, letting her know that the information I gave her was inaccurate, and then told her what really happened.

    I understand that news organizations are expected to have updates as soon as possible when a story occurs, but should quality and accuracy be sacrificed for speed? In my opinion no, and other journalists would agree as well. But it’s not that easy.

    I’ll even admit, I rushed to tell my friend inaccurate information because I, like other journalists, was so into the moment and so shocked at the event that occurred. Even though I didn’t actually report on the event, I still gave somebody inaccurate information, and as an aspiring journalist, that is a huge no-no.

    What did I learn form this? Providing inaccurate information takes away your credibility as a journalist. Sullivan writes that The Times and other media organizations rushed and provided information that was not correct, all because they were under pressure to have a story ready for their readers and viewers.

    Providing inaccurate information could also be dangerous. Lets say the shooter didn’t kill himself. What if the media reported that the shooter was dead, but he really wasn’t? This could have endangered viewers in the area who actually heard or read the report and were out and about believing that they were safe. Or lets say that Lanza killed himself but the media reported that he was still at large. This could have caused a mass panic.

    This all might be a slippery slope, but it could happen. Even though it is important to give reports in a timely manner, accuracy is the most important thing. After all, a journalist is supposed to deliver the news, not inaccurate reports.

    • stevejfox says:

      Daniel — The natural reaction is to share information with others on news as it happens. You have to fight that as a journalist. Steve

  3. tverdone10 says:

    The one line that stuck out to me in this was “The best practice is then to correct things as they are proven wrong, which is another guiding approach,” said by executive editor of the Times Jill Abramson.

    Seems pretty risky and almost fulls under the jurisdiction of the “do we publish it or not” discussion we had in class on Tuesday. The main thing that comes to mind when I read that quote is regarding the painfully early and unfair accusation of the brothers shooter, Ryan Lanza. When working on heavy stories like this I’d imagine it’s easy to get ahead of ones self, but at the same time fact checking is of the utmost importance.

    This is another persons life, who wants to be accused of this sort of crime? In this age of super fast information, things can get out of hand extremely quickly. It’s an important selling point to be the first source with the story, but if you’re going to backtrack and keep altering your already printed stories after they’re already up until they are right doesn’t that almost defeat the purpose of being the quickest?

    • stevejfox says:

      Yes, correcting as you find out they are wrong is fine. But it’s also a bit of a cop-out. Why not make sure it’s right in the first place? Steve

  4. alindsay2013 says:

    In Journalism I was always taught that accuracy meant everything. Of course, in this day of social media speed seems to have taken over accuracy. This speed should not replace the fact that as journalists we must not take everything at face value and must QUESTION EVERYTHING. Personally I would rather have the most accurate article than have it be the first one out on the presses. Do you all remember where everyone thought that Ryan Lanza was the shooter? Alternatively, do you all remember where everyone thought that he used an assault rifle where he never did? All of these mistakes were the victims of “Speed over Accuracy,” and these mistakes can cause you your reputation and credibility as a professional journalist. It is like Aesop’s most famous fable “The Tortoise and the Hare,” where slow and steady wins the race. In terms of journalism it is “accuracy and skepticism gets the credibility.”

  5. I think that it’s always tempting to opt for speed when other news outlets are publishing rushed stories, but the risk is too great. Publishing misinformation can greatly harm innocent people, while taking time to make sure the story is correct before publication will bring more traffic because *you’re* the one breaking the real story. (See deadspin and the Manti T’eo hoax.) Simply updating in real-time doesn’t absolve journalists from blame, nor does it lessen the damage it causes to those in the spotlight.

  6. samafaithra says:

    I thought that we were supposed to comment on the actual New York Times blog so I did that the other day. I will copy and paste my comment on that blog post onto this one! Sorry for the confusion.

    “It’s always better to be slower and right than faster and wrong.”

    I couldn’t agree more; however, witnessing several respected news publications, especially the New York Times, make such heinous mistakes truly made me question the accuracy of media. As an undergraduate journalism major, the errors made in the Newtown Shootings Coverage taught me about the strength accuracy holds over time. During the day of the tragedy, I sat at my kitchen table with ABC News broadcast coverage, my twitter feed, NYTimes and Washington Post open in Internet tabs. To watch how much information was changing every ten minutes was baffling. I didn’t know who or what to believe. All I know is that I was stunned and saddened. First, I pray that a tragedy like this never happens again, and second, that if there is a next time, a better job of coverage is done across the border.

  7. This article highlights the increasing problem with social media outlets, which is, as Margaret Sullivan pointed out, the pressure of being first. Twitter and Facebook has allowed news to be reported instantaneously within the blink of eye. It’s subconsciously created a culture of wanting things “now” that has left editors of major news outlets constantly wanting to be first, to outdo their competitors. Editors can say as much as they want that they’d rather, and it’s more important to be “second and accurate rather than first and inaccurate,” but the underlying American culture seems to trump ethical journalism as of late when it comes to reporting.

    Over and over again you hear of newspapers writing correction articles or apologizing to their audience for falsely reported information. While it’s easy to blame our instantaneous culture, it still shouldn’t serve as an excuse for execution of poor journalistic ethics.

    I went to a lecture last year with Mark Stencel, the managing editor for NPR’s website, that touched upon the same issues that were raised in this article. Stencel talked about an incident at NPR in which one of their reporters tweeted that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has been announced dead after a shooting in Tucson, Arizona back in 2011. The reporter had three credible sources all confirm the news, yet the report that Giffords was in fact dead, was inherently false. Stencel went onto say how he later had dinner with Giffords’ husband shortly after the event, resulting in the worst moment of Stencel’s life. It just goes to show you that you can never have enough sources to verify one bit of information, and that being first isn’t always the end-all-be-all. If not, you can cause an incredible amount of pain and suffering on another person’s family. The residual effects are endless when it comes to something like this.

  8. Ryan says:

    Accuracy should always be the first priority for journalist, even if that means you could be the last news organization to publish a story. Unfortunately speed has become more important in todays media.

    The evolution of portable devices has forever changed the journalistic landscape. Each news organization wants to be the first to report and they sometimes overlook important aspects of journalism. Fact-check, make sure what you publish or what you show people over the air is accurate. Big news outlets fall victim to believing sources without conducting their own research.

    Journalists seem to get caught up in the headline race as opposed to stating the facts. These are the blunders that lead anyone to the assumption that they cannot trust the media, even the New York Times shared incorrect information.

    The sad part is that if reporters remembered the principles of journalism, a lot of the misinformation could have been avoided. The Twitter age has created a nation of urgency. News organizations are under pressure to provide full-stories for demanding readers as deadlines tick away. When news outlets began attributing information to one another, journalist lean towards the assumption that the presented information is factual. There is always a risk when attributing news sources or any source for that matter. If their information is incorrect then you both ultimately fail.

    I also think it was irresponsible for news organizations to speculate Adam Lanza’s possible Asperger’s or autism disorder without looking into the background. Delicate information like a person’s medical conditions should only be reported when it is proven. If reporters took the time they could have done research on Lanza’s medical history to confirm the speculation of his potential mental disorder.

    Sometimes I think the media forgets how influential they are because they look bad when publishing information without assessing accuracy. Journalist need to remember it is more important to make stories concrete and accurate, instead of worrying about how fast you can publish.

  9. That line, “It’s always better to be slower and right than faster and wrong,” also stuck out to me. When the public demands information and the journalist’s news organization wants to get the story out quickly, it is no wonder that under this pressure journalists make factual errors. While social media is becoming more and more popular as a source of news and increases the pace of reporting, the old rules still apply for journalists. Most important of all, stopping and asking, “How do we know this?”

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