The Society of Professional Journalists ran a thread of tweets yesterday in regards to the incorrect reporting that was done yesterday on the supposed arrest/custody of a Boston Bombing suspect.
After reports were actually confirmed that was in fact, no suspect or any arrests, this led to some backlash against many news agencies such as CNN and AP.
This prompted the SPJ to tweets quotes as well as links to their ethics code about breaking news reporting among other topics.
And my personal favorite:
The reporting was erroneous enough to prompt the FBI into treading the rare terrain of media criticism.
“Contrary to widespread reporting, no arrest has been made in connection with the Boston Marathon attack. Over the past day and a half, there have been a number of press reports based on information from unofficial sources that has been inaccurate. Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the media, particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting.”
Whoops. The AP explained that they had used a source who provided information under the condition of anonymity, which at times, can be a shot in the dark for reporters.
Apparently the anonymous official had stood by the information even after it was disputed which prompted the AP to report the details.
I’d have to say my favorite reaction was from the likes of Jon Stewart, who just tore into CNN.
These sort of mistakes have seem to become too common. I wrote before about this topic during the Sandy Hook tragedy. And like I said in the post before, 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.
And it will be perpetuated. I made the mistake of doing this on Facebook yesterday by sharing this incorrect information with my 700 friends. Luckily I was able to quickly follow about the incorrect reporting and apologized.
Only hours after that, another tragedy happened. A fertilizer plant in Texas exploded– dealing incredible amounts of damage.
And almost immediately after the initial reports of the explosion, the conflicting reports of casualties unfolded on twitter.
Within maybe 20 minutes of those original tweets, CNN was getting on the scene coverage from affiliate saying there were at least 2 confirmed dead.
Hours later AP reported that between 5 and 15 people were killed in the blast:
And right now that’s where the reports stand. They aren’t precise and they aren’t exactly confirmed.
As SPJ puts it, journalists should show good taste… and shouldn’t
pander to lurid curiosity.
I imagine a lot of journalists found themsleves on the edge of their seats when they caught wind of this disasterous explosion. Especially since Boston had happened within the same week.
But still, regardless of how gruesome the details may seem, it is a significant responsibility for someone performing the role of journalist to check and then double check the authenticity of facts.