Jumping the gun

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Image credit to Erik Mörner licensed under Creative Commons

Posted by Spencer Vasey

In the last year, Bill Murray stopped a bank robbery in Tokyo, France passed a law making it illegal to answer work emails after 6 p.m. and Joe Paterno died.

 Then he came back to life.

And then he died again.

 The stories above were all reported by major news outlets, and each of them, excluding Paterno’s second passing, is entirely false.

 In a world where media giants are in a constant race to be the first to break big stories, misreports are becoming increasingly common. Reporters are skipping the reporting stage and putting their pen to paper before checking to see if their stories hold water.

 Just this week, NBC misreported several facts about the controversy surrounding Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. Although they were quick to issue a correction, the fact remains that errors in reporting are becoming far too common.

 How can we, as consumers of the news, trust anything that is being reported when mistakes occur so frequently? While I agree that the reader shouldn’t blindly believe everything that he is told, I still feel that the news media should be held to a higher standard.

 The ultimate responsibility of a journalist is to the reader. This means that before she ever sits down at her computer to begin typing, the reporter should have multiple sources that back up her story.

The editor should ensure that this is the case. He should not force a writer to print a story before it is ready. If he is not absolutely sure of the facts, he should refrain from running the story until the facts are verified.

Who do you think is to blame in the misreporting of stories? Is it the editor’s job or the writer’s job to make sure the story is factually sound? Does the reader bear any responsibility to be critical consumers of the news?

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2 responses to “Jumping the gun

  1. Ariella Miesner

    Yes, yes, and yes! Every one involved should be diligent in uplifting the truth.

    • Agreed! It’s so important and I can only hope that as journalists we can start to reverse this trend!

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