Mistakes, False News and Errors
When an important news story is breaking, everybody either goes on-line or turns on the T.V. news to see what is happening. People want to know what is going on, if they are safe, and what is coming next. They do not want to wait and hear all the details tomorrow morning. In today’s world, there are multiple 24 hour news stations and they need news to report all the time due to consumer demand.
Sadly, this culture has led to press reporting false information in important news stories. One example is the Boston bombing. At one point, news sources reported an arrest had occurred, and this was not true. This led to the FBI criticizing the press (Carter, 2013). This is an example of the “report now, apologize later” trend in the media. Even though this trend has become common, one needs to consider if it is ethical.
The first thing listed in the SPJ Code of Ethics is that journalists should take responsibility for the accuracy of their work and verify it (SPJ, 2014). Reporting false information, such as in the Boston bombing example, is not having their work verified. The Code also says that speed should not replace accuracy (SPJ, 2014). So, again, in the 24 hour news culture, items still need to be verified. Just by reviewing false news reports in the past several years, then looking at the Code of Ethics, it is easy to come to a quick conclusion that these practices are not ethical.
Further research into this “report now, apologize later’, culture may lead to a much murkier conclusion. The consumers of news are demanding to have answers, and have them now. Most viewers will change the channel if news outlets are just reporting nothing when an important story is breaking. They will turn on one that is releasing new facts. Based on this consumer pressure for news 24 hours a day, one needs to consider if there needs to be a new Code of Ethics. Perhaps, a new Code of Ethics needs to be created to reflect changes in social media (Buttry, 2010). In this updated code, journalists can report things seen or reported on social media, but with clauses such as “unconfirmed reports” , “social media is saying” and other qualifiers so the consumers knows these may not be verified facts.
In this new media culture, the responsibility to confirm what they are seeing is a fact, is on the consumer. Certainly, journalists, need to do their due diligence, but the burden has changed. Children in schools should be taught how to critically evaluate things they see on news and social media. The public needs to look for “qualifier” in press stories and consider the stories. This burden of checking is now on the consumer due to changes in reporting that have been driven by consumers. The need for instant, 24 hour news has pushed the media into a new world.
Carter, B. (2013) The FBI Criticizes News Media After Several Mistaken Reports or Arrest Retrieved on January 10, 2016 form http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/18/business/media/fbi-criticizes-false-reports-of-a-bombing-arrest.html?_r=1
Buttry, S. (2010) Journalists Code of Ethics: Time for an Update? Retrieved on January 10, 2016 from https://stevebuttry.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/journalists-code-of-ethics-time-for-an-update/
SPJ (2014) SPJ Code of Ethics. Retrieved on January 10, 2016 from http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp