I Want My News Right, Not “Right Now”

Editor’s note (that’s me!): This post is running today, August 25, in the Eye On Chi segment of the ChicagoNow blog. Here’s the link:

http://www.chicagonow.com/eye-on-chi/2011/08/opinion-i-want-my-news-right-not-right-now/

Blame it on the internet, or cable TV, but my news coverage has changed. And I don’t like where it’s heading.

I’m throwing things at the tv when the news is on more than at any other time. And while it used to be news stories that angered me, it’s now those reporting the news that get my boxers in a bunch. With a gazillion outlets now racing to cover every possible angle of every breaking story, there seems to be more of an emphasis on reporting the news first instead of being right.

Admittedly, I’m one of those glued to the set anytime a major news story breaks live, and viewers like me are probably part of the problem. But in their scramble to be the first to tell me what is happening, we seem to waive the age-old adage of confirming information before reporting it. The way we get some of our news has an unfair advantage over others. If Twitter is wrong about facts and details, it gets lost in the continuing stream of updates and opinions. But let CNN or Fox News screw up their report, and they’ll hear about it in every form for days on end. John Stewart will run the footage, David Letterman will mock the reporter, and The Onion will have a satire posted within minutes.

Is it best to simply keep quiet and let the viewer draw their own conclusions from what they’re seeing? I once listened to a Chicago anchor claim that an office building fire, confined to one floor, was “shaping up to be the biggest fire in the history of the city”. Really? 1. On what information are you basing that statement? and 2. Have you not heard of the Great Chicago Fire? It was a disaster of historical proportions before it was a soccer team, and you should probably know about it. This is a bit of a second point, but I don’t need your hyperbolic drawing of attention to the things you’re reporting any more than I need inauthentic facts.

Report what you know, not what you’re anticipated series of events. If you have to wait for a press conference for official reports, then the rest of us will have to wait too.

P.S. Special shout out to the Miami Herald for making this post a little longer. After Tuesday’s earthquake on the east coast, the Herald, in their attempt to sensationalize a story, tweeted that the Haitian EQ in 2010 was also a magnitude 5.9. Not even close. Thanks to Alek Babel for pointing out to them that not only was that actually a very powerful 7.0, but also that they removed their erroneous tweet without issuing a correction. THAT, my friends, is irresponsible reporting

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One thought on “I Want My News Right, Not “Right Now”

  1. Literally a gazillion? 🙂 But you’re right on the mark-it’s all about “winning” (Charlie Sheen style), and getting it reported first. Accuracy takes a backseat with most news outlets today it seems. Twitter, while good at breaking news stories and “getting the word out”, just perpetuates the problem in the end. What could be a wonderful tool for news sharing is instead a tool for the spread of misinformation.

    Unfortunately, I don’t see things changing anytime soon. So, this means that those of us on the receiving end need to change how we process the information. I’ve learned to take what is reported with a grain of salt until something can be confirmed.

    There is also too much opinion, not enough fact in today’s news coverage. That’s fine for panel shows, but for news anchors and regular reporters, give us the facts. I don’t care what you think.

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