This week’s blog is by recovering journalist and guest blogger, Cindy Filipenko. She still makes a living from writing the truth. You can visit her at www.cindyfilipenko.com.
Journalism used to be about getting to the truth. Today it’s become a game of getting it first instead of getting it right.
Journalism has always been about who breaks a story a first, but it also used to be about getting that story right. And sometimes getting it right, checking facts, using multiple sources and striving for absolute accuracy meant deadlines needed to be extended. A story with factual errors that ended up in print was a major embarrassment, made even more so by the fact that people were faithfully reading the paper to get their news. But all that has changed in the last 10 years.
Increasingly we are turning to digital sources for news. We can access up-to-the-minute news from our laptops and handheld devices. There is no shortage of websites and news channels — because TV news is still holding on — to catch up on the world’s happenings. You can click between websites and CNN, blogs and Fox News, you can check in on Twitter or Facebook to get the most recent news. It’s fast and furious and it demands your attention.
This new level of pressure for instant news has resulted in journalistic errors that foster public cynicism: a public that doubts the truth of what is being presented. The erroneous reporting on the Boston Marathon tragedy is a recent example that comes to mind. Within hours of the bombing, CNN anchor John King reported that a “dark-skinned male” had been arrested. This was untrue. King apologized but offered no explanation for his reporting.
With the pressure on to produce, it’s tempting to use unconfirmed sources and information to gain the competitive “news first” edge. But ultimately, professional ethics should always win out. All journalists really have is their credibility. And as we lose our credibility, we will lose our audience. And our audience will lose out on the truth.
When veteran CBS newsman Walter Cronkite signed off every night with “And that’s the way it was,” you had a reasonable expectation that it was indeed that way.
Today, too often, we’re waiting for the correction to follow the reporting. And in a world of information, that’s just not good enough.
Maureen Douglas, CPF-IAF, is usually in this weekly space. Mo writes, consults and speaks about the power of positive public, workplace and team engagement. Click here for Mo’s FREE e-Guide to Better Public Engagement. Follow her on Twitter.