When will the news media learn their lesson? What will it take? What has to happen? How many mistakes do they have to make? How many faces have to turn red? How much crow must be eaten? How many heads have to hang, in shame? How many slaps on the wrist do they need? How many reprimands?
There I was, minding my own business, having lunch. Eating and scrolling through Facebook to see what my friends were up to. Suddenly BuzzFeed reported a suspect in the Boston bombing had been arrested.
Yeah, I put the TV on. CNN. There they were. John King, Christopher Cuomo and Anderson Cooper. Joining them was Juliette Kayyem, the former homeland security advisor to Massachusetts Governor, Deval Patrick.
They were tripping over themselves to break the story. Insisting they had spoken to “very senior, very credible sources”, they announced two separate videos showed the same suspect dropping the bag containing at least one of the bombs; and then running away from the scene as soon as the blasts went off. The accompanying video coverage went so far as to circle the image of the guy, just in case viewers couldn’t figure out who he was
Beside themselves with their ‘scoop’, they rarely looked at the camera. They were all too busy constantly checking their Blackberrys and iPhones. They were so excited, they were talking over each other.
On and on they went. On and on and on and on.
To her credit, at some point, the homeland security woman tried to put some parameters around what they were saying. Tried to caution everyone not to jump to conclusions. It didn’t really stop anyone. Frankly, they were out of control.
Turns out their “very senior, very credible sources” were wrong.
(insert visual of reporters with egg on their faces here).
This makes me CRAZY!! It is unprofessional. Irresponsible. And downright foolhardy. Aside from making themselves, and the network they work for, look stupid, they hinder the efforts of law enforcement. Actually they do more than just hinder. They jeopardize. And, as they might have done yesterday, they let the perpetrators know the police have pictures of them, and they’re looking for them.
Talk about giving them an invitation to get out of town, or disguise their appearance.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
So after all the supposed ‘news’ was retracted, did they stop reporting?
NO, they did not. They spent the rest of the afternoon asking inane questions, endlessly speculating, talking absolute nonsense. Flipping from location to location and from reporter to reporter. All of whom did exactly the same thing. They were still at it when I went to bed last night. No, I didn’t stay tuned to CNN. I kept checking in, just to see what they were up to.
To see just how crazed they really are.
Pretty damn crazy, as it turns out.
What’s important to understand, though, is what’s really at the crux of this matter. In our haste, in our NEED to be first, to be the best, to beat the shit out of our competition, we are ignoring what should be the holy grail of journalism.
And then, to make matters worse, instead of apologizing, instead of going back to regular programming until such time as there is ‘real’ news, they kept at it. And blamed their unknown sources for getting ahead of themselves. Did they, for even a moment, blame themselves for getting ahead of themselves?
Of course not.
Did someone hold a gun to their heads, saying “You must report this immediately”?
Of course not. And if someone did, he or she should be fired. Because regardless of who their sources were, there was a time when the facts would have been thoroughly checked. And until those facts were unimpeachable, nary a word would be printed or spoken on the air.
But those days are long gone. Replaced by greed. A greed for power, for ratings, for numbers. A need to dominate.
Accuracy? Meh …
Integrity? Meh …
Makes me wish I was a big advertiser on CNN. I’d be pulling my ads right now. And ultimately, money talks.