Ethical journalism

As you might or might not know, I have a degree in strategic communications from Oklahoma State University. Although the majority of my studies were in public relations, I did write for my university newspaper for one semester and had my fair share of writing/reporting/journalism classes as well as an ethics class. I also read a book called “Trust Me, I’m Lying” for my capstone campaigns class that was about the world of online media, blogging, etc. and how much more often things are reported that are untrue than when we only had print news. Bloggers make it more about getting the breaking news out first than about getting their facts straight. I don’t know about you, but because of my schooling, I follow a lot of journalists and communications professionals on Twitter, and this issue was ALL over Twitter this week!

Of course you’ve all heard about the bombing at the Boston Marathon on Monday. Information was flooding in on Monday about the incident, and I heard multiple stories that ended up being untrue. Some were not very harmful, simply stories about supposed victims and their stories (I saw a picture on Twitter of a guy who was apparently going to propose at the finish line and his girlfriend died…ended up being untrue). Others, however, were completely untrue information that I’m confused as to how reporters even got a hold of. I heard law enforcement found an explosive at the library and conducted a controlled explosion. I later found out this didn’t happen. I think the biggest false report made was one by CNN that claimed that law enforcement had a suspect in custody on Monday. The fact that such a major, trusted, credible news outlet reported this and it ended up being untrue is ridiculous to me. From then on, I questioned every report I read, and that’s where the danger is.

As the public, we trust our news outlets to do their job and deliver us the news. True, accurate news. Yes, the sooner the better, but what good is false information even if it is the fastest? When the incidents on Thursday night took place, I was relying on a reporter from The Oklahoman via Twitter rather than any national news outlets (which took quite a while to start to cover the events anyway). Yes, still a reporter, but one I trust more than other outlets just trying to get hits on their website. It honestly got to the point where I didn’t truly believe any reports unless there were quotes from law enforcement, who were by far the most trustworthy people in this case for the public.

I read a tweet that said years from now, no one will remember who reported the news first, but they will remember if you got it wrong. I will forever remember that CNN reported a suspect was in custody for a terrorist attack when there were not even actual suspects at the time. Who cares if you got the news out first if it’s completely untrue?

On another note, kudos to Boston and MIT law enforcement, the FBI and everyone else involved with finding this man. I hope we can get some answers out of him. Not that I will understand any of his reasons for doing what he did, but answers and some sort of closure is always a relief. I live thousands of miles away from Boston, and I was a little bit freaked out going to work on Friday morning (Friday was also the anniversary of the OKC Bombing, which was also unsettling). I’m glad the suspect was found so that Boston residents could finally sleep easy after a horrifying week.

What do you all think? Don’t you agree that getting it right is better than getting it out first? Did you read any false reports this week? How did you feel toward the news outlet?

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