News Columns & Blogs

When stories break, mistakes happen

When violence and tragedy struck Saturday in Arizona, the media got to work.

I was traveling back home from the Oregon Coast on Saturday and only found out about the shooting when I stopped for lunch in Hood River, flipped open the iPad and read accounts on washingtonpost.com.

Amid the chaos, NPR and CNN pronounced U.S. Rep. Giffords dead from the attack, then both quickly corrected their errors. However, with the speed of media in today's time, such errors are magnified. It is difficult to be both fast and right, especially when an event like Saturday's shootings occur.

We see it happen locally, too. During a near-drowning last summer, one Tri-City TV station relied on bad information and, in an effort to be first to the story, announced a fatality. Another station, while not gloating, did take the opportunity to tell its viewers what steps it takes to make sure it doesn't get the story wrong.

I will tell you that the need to be fast often weighs heavily against getting it right. Temptation to "run with it" is high, and it takes seasoned news veterans to hold back those willing to publish quickly.

Here is a piece by the Poynter Institute on the errors made Saturday and how NPR did an admirable job of quickly correcting its error. (This article also points out that Fox News and The New York Times also made errors Saturday.) It's well worth taking a few minutes to read.

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