A television frame grab shows CNN broadcasting the Supreme Court’s decision incorrectly on the health care law. Both CNN and Fox News Channel reported the court had struck down the law.
June 28, 2012 will go down in history as the day that the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act was struck down in a Supreme Court decision.
At least it was — for awhile — according to CNN and Fox.
The reporting blunder even had the president fooled, as he was watching the same network news reports as Americans across the country. CNN, Fox and the numerous outlets that recycled their reports recanted their errors, and issued apologies.
But they’re not the only ones at fault.
Of course, the organizations themselves carry most of the burden, and one has to wonder where the fact-checkers were. But what about the people who put the pressure on the networks to produce content at superhuman speed?
Media consumers need their content immediately, but rarely consider the behind-the-scenes madness of the newsroom. The consumers apply the pressure of producing the fastest, but also best, reporting. It’s more of an oxymoron than most people realize.
Not that we shouldn’t expect to get both accurate and fast reporting, but in our appetites for insta-journalism, we often sacrifice quality for quantity and accessibility.
Everyone has access to immediate reports, but at what cost?
Up-to-the-minute news means no time is wasted and fact-checking often goes by the wayside out of the competition to break the story and beat the competition. Journalism is as much a business as it is a craft. If time is money then the last network to break a story is already out of the game.
One second of factual inaccuracy can permanently taint a news outlet’s reputation.
But they’re just playing the game the best they can, so some fallacies will inevitably fall through the cracks. It’s embarrassing, and a crushing moment for any journalist.
Considering the painful waiting game played while anticipating the health care mandate decision, it would come as no surprise for any major network to jump on the story.
So what can consumers do?
We should continue to ask for news as it comes, but simultaneously focus on the news that is already out there, so we can further analyze and grasp the content we’re digesting. There will always be more news to come.
It’s natural to ask what comes next, but we must consider what is at stake when we ask this question. Let’s not demand lightspeed news, but the best news.
We shouldn’t let journalists off the hook and expect them to slack off, but we should be able to let them take their time to get the story right and to make the story exceptional.
The next time you’re on your iPhone refreshing like crazy, relax. The story will develop in time. And if you let it, the story can progress with the utmost in quality and care in reporting.
With patience and the demand for good over fast news, media consumers can have some role in preventing Dewey Defeats Truman Part Deux.
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