12.10.2013

"Get It First — and Worry About Correcting It Later"

A few weeks back, as coverage of the anniversary of the assassination of JFK was on-going, I came across this story in the opinion section of USA Today. The story outlined the coverage of breaking news a half century ago, as it compares to the "social media hearsay" creation of news today. The piece opens up with the story of how anchorman and managing editor, Walter Cronkite, at CBS Evening News dealt with learning "THREE SHOTS WERE FIRED AT PRESIDENT KENNEDY'S MOTORCADE TODAY IN DOWNTOWN DALLAS." While Cronkite demanded to go live he would not do so if it compromised four things: getting it fast but getting it right, asking tough questions; taking nothing for granted; staying ahead of the competition. 

So often today none of these remain an ethical priority for journalists. News has become all about who can get it first and if it so happens to be incorrect and can be corrected later. Social media like Twitter kills off people often before they see the light and confirm rumors as facts. While it is apparent that Twitter, and social media in general, continue to make the public more aware in a prompt fashion, these new technologies often trade being first for being right. Cronkite was sure to confirm his sources THREE TIMES before proceeding with a story to the public. Today's generation is more concerned with instantaneous news. We live in a generation where occurrences during the afternoon are old news by the evening. 

Just this year, the Navy Yard shooting was covered by multiple networks that erroneously identified the name of the assailant and the Boston bombing repeatedly was reported to a have a "third explosion," which actually was later determined to be an unrelated fire. For reasons like this the opinion piece asked, and I too agree, today's journalist and bloggers need to renew our vow to get it right above and before getting it first. But the question remains, in this instantaneous generation will getting it right ever be as profitable as getting it first appears to be? What's your thoughts? Do you see instances where even getting it first and being wrong is more profitable and or newsworthy than getting it right?


The Full Story from USA Today

1 comment:

Ulysses Munoz said...

I would really like to see a resurgence of the "get it first, but first get it right" mindset. During election season, media outlets like CNN and FoxNews that provide 24/7 coverage are always on the lookout for that next breaking story. They are driven by a need to get that story out to the public before their competitors, even if a proper fact check has not yet been completed. If it seems somewhat solid, sometimes that's enough to run with it.

I think it's unlikely that we'll see another Cronkite-type, news just moves too quickly. I do think that we could try and find something in the middle however, although where in the middle would be best, I'm still not sure.

However, one thing to consider is this: off the top of your head, do you know who first announced that President Obama won reelection?