As journalists, it’s your word against everyone else’s. Your words are used to inform, to educate and to provide insight. And most of the time we forget this, which can undoubtedly lead to miscommunication and misinformation.
When news came out of the Boston Marathon bombing, the world desperately searched for constant updates and news organizations desperately wanted to be the first source to provide it. However, with time constraints comes pressure, which can ultimately lead to poor reporting.
The Huffington Post reported, “CNN and other outlets found themselves with egg on their face when they reported that an arrest had been made in the Boston bombings and were then forced to walk that news back.”
Though it was not alone, CNN took the brunt of the blame for its faulty reporting, “It was the first and most prominent outlet to tout its scoop.”
As word of the bombing spread, the public turned to the media to find out what happened, who was injured and who committed the crime. But as we looked to the media to tell us what to do, what we did not expect was that they would provide us with the wrong information. In situations such as these, this type of information is crucial for our safety.
What’s worse than this type of unethical reporting is the fact that multiple news organizations viewed CNN’s findings as credible and ultimately reported the same facts that CNN reported.
However, this becomes more than just a question of ethics; it becomes a question of the integrity of the journalists and how they are conducting themselves within the field. But CNN claims that their sources were credible and more importantly truthful.
“CNN had three credible sources on both local and federal levels. Based on this information we reported our findings. As soon as our sources came to us with new information we adjusted our reporting.”
And once again, immediacy trumps credibility. US News reports, “During the unfolding investigation, the media was criticized for jumping to conclusions and making inaccurate reports in an effort to be the first with information. The 24-hour news cycle means steep competition amongst cable networks, all eager to be the first with the scoop.”
And even Anderson Cooper agreed that breaking news is often falsely reported. The Huffington Post quoted Cooper saying, “Initial reports, so often are wrong.”
According to Politico’s article “Media Shrug at Boston Blunders,” “In a new media era, many journalists—and perhaps many in the audience as well—seem to accept that information on a big story is fluid and fragmentary, and are ready to move on without pausing long for either apology or explanation, other than to blame their sources.”
However, the public is partially to blame. Too quickly do we jump to conclusions and take whatever the media says as factual. Because the media has become so embedded into our society, it ultimately dictates our actions and our knowledge.
But when the media is everywhere, sometimes it is almost impossible to avoid and block out. David Westin, president of ABC news, said to Politico that, “There was a time when, rightly or wrongly, we thought we had a handful of news sources that were authoritative,” he added, “It puts a huge responsibility on the shoulders of the consumer of news to sort through and figure out what is true.”
In order to promote a change among the way the media reports information and the way that the public utilizes this information, it is crucial that we learn how to sift through the news presented to us and that the media learns how to sift through the information they collect and the sources they use. Maybe if this happens, we will all be more credible as a whole.
Sam Norton can be contacted at