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Opening Arguments

Bad week

Yeah, this hasn't exactly been a stellar week for my profession:

The fast-moving news out of Boston on Wednesday snared some of the most respected reporters and news outlets in the country into offering false or conflicting information about whether a suspect had been arrested — leaving CNN and the Associated Press, among others, scrambling to clean up their reports as the day went on.

The flood of conflicting reports, confusion, and subsequent criticism reminded some of June 28, 2012, when many media outlets — most notably CNN — incorrectly reported the Supreme Court’s Obamacare ruling.

Now as then, many of the nation’s most trusted, established media organizations raced to broadcast breaking news, only to find themselves eating their words minutes later. Now as then, those who resisted the temptations of getting the story first were rewarded with getting the story right. And now as then, the media’s failures were widely mocked across social media.

There has always been that tension is daily jouralism between being first and being right -- it's probably the principle dynamic of our being. Never has the pressure to be first been so dominant and the perceived need to be right so weak. Maybe we've seen the worst now and journalists will take a deep breath and a steop back. It's hard to imagine the breakneck speed getting any worse -- can there be anything much quicker on the draw than a 140-character tweet?

And though the sheer factual inaccuracies have been bad enough, all the wild, unjustified speculations seem almost worse to me. Until you have real information, don't try to convince me it was a lone wolf or a rightwing militia or an al-Qaida operation. All that tells me is what your political predilections are.


Posted in: Current events