“The rush to be first has so thoroughly swallowed up the principle of being right and first that it seems a little egg on the face is now deemed worth the risk.” – Judy Muller
CNN, the 24 Hour News Cycle and digital media have changed how news is delivered and received. News anchors turn to Facebook and Twitter feeds during a broadcast. Reporters tweet from the scene of an event. Digital Communications Strategist Jeremy Porter believes that the glory goes to the first news organization to break the story. Accuracy is secondary.
The SPJ Code of Ethics state journalist must:
- Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.
- Remember that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.
By placing the need to be first over the need to be accurate, news organizations are violating the SPJ’s Code of Ethics. However, consumers today expect to receive their news in real time. At the first word of a breaking news story, people are on their smart phones checking social media for reports. News agencies are under pressure to get the news out there in order to capture the audience. The public’s demand for immediate information drives the ‘first trumps accuracy’ mentality. The news organizations’ need for viewership or readership to garner ratings and income from advertisers exacerbates the issue.
As citizens, we should demand that our news be well researched and accurate. Inaccurate knowledge is no knowledge at all.
Carter, B. (April 17, 2013). The F.B.I. Criticizes the News Media After Several Mistaken Reports of an Arrest. In The New York Times. Retrieved August 14, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/18/business/media/fbi-criticizes-false-reports-of-a-bombing-arrest.html?_r=1.
Porter, J. (October 6, 2009). Does News Accuracy Matter?. In Journalistics. Retrieved August 14, 2015, from http://blog.journalistics.com/2009/does-news-accuracy-matter/.
“Society of Professional Journalists Improving and Protecting Journalism since 1909.” SPJ Code of Ethics. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2015, from http://www.spj.org.