Integrity is what is at stake for journalism

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Where does one begin to sort out the feelings of tragedy? Is it after they conceive the reality of it? Indeed it may be hard to conceive that a young man would go to an elementary school with the intent of killing children, shooting some of them as many as eleven times. Such senseless violence is unimaginable to me.

Yesterday, every inch of my body was filled with sadness, pain and disgust. But I also felt disappointment and a yearning for reliable reporting; something that none of us received until the day was just about over. Hard news has always been something that news outlets would race to get published first but nowadays it’s just who ever can get the first tweet out there without regard for fact checking, proper sourcing or ethical consideration.

That case alone is old news. I woke up to an update from ABC that there had been a mass shooting in Connecticut and I immediately found myself on twitter and facebook trying to follow all the sources I could. What I found almost as disturbing as the shooting itself was the reports of television reporters interviewing children that had just been evacuated from the school. Children who were asked to close their eyes by the police officers as they were escorted past the carnage of their deceased school-mates.

What I had also noticed was that the media had mixed up the identity of the shooters which was caused simply by hearsay and was not solid information. It also circulated online that the shooters mother was a teacher at the school, but that was devised by the media itself and was not true. Until yesterday I followed Slate magazine on twitter because I enjoyed their combination of humor with news and politics. But that quickly changed after I realized that they really suck at journalism, I mean, they are terrible. You can delete or retract tweets and statuses all you want but when you put something on the internet, you should expect that it will stay out there. And it will be seen.

The media displayed too many gaffes in one day. And no apology could make up for that. The coverage that was done yesterday completely defeated what journalism is supposed to do – provide the facts and make sense of a chaotic event in a form that is understandable. Not add to the chaos. Yesterday it seemed as if there was no such thing as solid fact and any bit of information that was crucial would suddenly change.

It’s obvious by this point to see that I am frustrated with how the media handled this tragedy yesterday. And it is because I felt helpless, at the mercy of a media that could not get its facts straight. I understand that that at times getting information that is necessary is difficult but journalists have an obligation to seek accuracy and to maintain honest and thoughtful integrity. It is a shame that social media -despite all it’s potential – has created a niche where organizations can report mistakes and think that they can fix them simply by deleting or retracting.

Journalism needs a higher standard than that.

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One thought on “Integrity is what is at stake for journalism

  1. Pingback: The news that never truly was, get the facts straight | mattbrunstetter

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