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17 April 2013

Staff Editorial 4/18: Accuracy falls short in media race

On Monday morning, more than 23,000 individuals began running the Boston Marathon eager to cross the finish line. But at 2:45 p.m., two bombs detonated at the final stretch of the race leaving 5,756 runners unable to finish.

As many were knocked to the ground by the force of explosives placed in pressure cookers and hidden in backpacks, first responders ran toward the bloodied streets as other runners tried to make sense of what had just happened.

Within minutes of the attack, the news flooded through national television, social media outlets, blogs and the radio. But, answers were not clear as to what had occurred because the investigation was – and still is – unfolding.

As news outlets report on tragic events, information changes rapidly. One minute, 50 people are injured. The next minute, it’s 80. Therefore, the media is changing its story constantly. This leads to misinformation and confusion.

We live in a society where people expect instantaneous news. Journalists rush to put out what they know rather than waiting to gather the facts and report the story fully. Even on Twitter, the public is retweeting and passing on information that may not be fact checked beforehand.

Flaws in the media go beyond fact-checking and being first, instead of being right. As news sites fight for ratings, manipulation becomes a factor into how media outlets report what they know.

When it was confirmed by the Boston Police Department that three people were killed – and one of them was an 8-year-old boy – that was the news peg media outlets promoted. They know what stories attract the most attention.

To boost ratings, they are forced to report what is most catchy. Emphasizing impactful parts of a story is understandable, but in a tragedy such as this, everything is meaningful.

Technology has created a faulty 24-hour news cycle that cannot be changed. Journalists are more worried about reporting pieces of the story. What is the point of a puzzle if pieces are missing?

Aristotle once said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” A tragic event should be reported as a full story, not as news flashes. Journalists should wait to report what is known, not change the information every five minutes. Leave that to Twitter.

As a media organization, we understand the pressures news outlets face when breaking news. However, once information is out there, it cannot be erased. Wait to be accurate. Wait to be precise. Wait to be right.

 

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.