We take reporting seriously in our field. Making sure all facts are vetted prior to putting anything in print on a by-lined story is a source of pride for those of us who call this profession “home.”
But we are in the age of the Internet and often speed is valued over accuracy. As a case in point, we offer as evidence the questionable reporting by CNN and Fox News on Wednesday when both went on the air with the “news” that a suspect had been arrested in connection to the bombings at the Boston Marathon.
It turns out the news was false, naturally, the “fact” attributed to unnamed sources. But for more than an hour, both CNN and Fox News maintained an arrest had been made when it hadn’t.
For us, that points to a much wider and very disturbing trend specifically in the realm of broadcast news outfits — their increasingly irresponsible behavior. To its credit, NBC refused to go with this story and reiterated that while CNN and Fox were reporting an arrest, a suspect hadn’t even been named yet.
As writers at a small town newspaper, this fervor for breaking news and getting there first — at any cost — kind of disgusts us. When speed leads, thoughtful, responsible journalism is collateral damage. We have noticed some community weeklies’ need for speed results in breaking news that can’t be quantified as real news – but it is something to put on the banner to generate more clicks. Is this what we are really about in the age of the Internet? Is this how we seize that moment?
In this case it’s not only a shame for the thousands of people directly affected by the bombing and the nation as a whole who suffers, but this kind of irresponsible reporting could seriously impact what is still an open investigation.