The web has become a crucial tool for independent journalists and bloggers to draw attention to stories not being covered by the mainstream media. We now have endless educational resources at our fingertips and the internet gives everyone a voice, but that does not mean every person is an expert on every subject.
As a Journalism major, it warms my heart to see more people involved and engaged with the news thanks to the internet. On the other hand, it is extremely disheartening to see bloggers, freelance writers, and even well-known journalists partaking in lazy reporting just because they can.
“Thanks to the internet, anyone can be a journalist! Even me!” …Not so much.
Timeliness has always played a major role in determining newsworthiness, but it’s not the only factor. The number one rule in every journalist’s code of ethics is to “seek the truth and report it fully.” News aggregators, journalists, reporters, and bloggers cannot, should not, and must not forget that ever-important principle. Anything less is simply bad journalism.
Yes, it’s true that increasingly people want information on-demand. However, in the race to be the first site with the inside scoop, accuracy is lost. One site reports a story based on an anonymous tip, and it’s not long before dozens more sites jump on it and run with it.
For example, take CNN and FOX News’ Obamacare coverage flub, the recent Daniel Tosh drama, or – on a lighter note – the casting of Finnick Odair in the upcoming The Hunger Games: Catching Fire film. In the first case, both news organizations pushed to be the first with news coverage before they actually researched and understood the verdict. In the second case, bloggers and news sites all caught wind of an inappropriate joke made by Tosh at a comedy club as reported second-hand by a blogger who wasn’t even present for the performance. Lastly, numerous gossip and media sites have been reporting “official” castings for the role of Finnick, all quoting the same “exclusive source.”
In a recent episode of HBO’s “The Newsroom,” the show dealt with the issue of reporting a story before confirming the information with a credible, official source. Nothing captures the dire need for accuracy in reporting better than this scene based on the news coverage surrounding the Gabrielle Giffords shooting in 2011:
As you can see, you simply can’t sacrifice official, on-the-record facts for viewership. You can’t trade integrity for clicks. Ad revenue will never replace thorough, accurate reporting.
It is much easier to wait and report the facts fairly and accurately than to report them wrong the first time and then have to back-track. You may not end up being the first to break the story, but you will certainly become the most credible. And which would you rather be? The one with a short-lived high volume of traffic right when the story breaks, or the one everyone goes to consistently once they’ve realized the other guy didn’t have their facts straight?
Journalists have plenty of time to sleep at their desks when they’re not doing any real work!
Your readers do want more information more immediately than ever before, but they shouldn’t have to surf through dozens of articles all citing the same anonymous source, random blogger, overheard conversation, or off-the-record inside scoop in order to find the truth. Do you really want to stand out among the countless news sites and blogs popping up every day? Stand up and become a trusted, reliable, accountable source for news and information.
If the internet has provided an infinite amount of resources and outlets for a reporter’s voice to be heard, it has also created unlimited methods to connect with industry officials, certified experts in any field, and brand, celebrity, or media spokespeople.
You can find a phone number for virtually anyone online. Pick up the phone and interview an official expert or spokesperson on the subject before you run your story. Can’t find a phone number to call? At the very least I guarantee you can find at least one e-mail address if you try – keyword being try.
Whether you are reporting on breaking national news, hyper-local, industry specific news, or entertainment news, please get your facts straight first. Bloggers and reporters, please stop abandoning truth and facts for clicks and traffic. Consumers of news, please stop falling for it and tolerating it when they do.
What do you think? Have you witnessed any other media blunders recently? What else do you think reporters can do to stand out in a sea of lazy journalists?
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