Skip to content

How accurate is….accurate?

by on October 4, 2014

I am going to do a little “throwback Thursday” (on a Saturday… just roll with it) with my post here. The original idea came from a discussion in Brian McDermott’s web design class when we talked about the Boston Marathon bombing and the media wave that came after.

Prior to the actual names of the bombers came onto the news waves, speculation of who the perpetrators were went rampant among news publications. There were many speculations and misinformation’s on who the bombers were. The Atlantic  wrote a fantastic article on how one missing Brown student was considered the bomber by internet detectives on Reddit and Twitter. The New York Post was at the forefront of a disaster due to its wrongful identification of two men that were believed to be the bombers (and they currently settled a lawsuit with the Post).

Along with this, one of the major things I noticed was the major differences in the death toll being reported during the bombing. USA Today had an article published that explains how many news organizations wrongfully reported inaccurate death toll numbers.

With this, I would like to bring up this question: Should news organizations (or us as journalists) even give this sort of information immediately after a tragic event such as the Boston Marathon Bombing? What exactly would you do in this case? Would you head to the bowels of the internet and use places like Reddit or Twitter to find potential leads in who the perpetrators might be?

In addition, if you know you have wrongfully published an article stating blame on the wrong person, how would you handle that? Do you think the New York Post did the right thing in publishing that story right off the bat?


From → Uncategorized

  1. mariahscafidi permalink

    This is a really good topic! I actually thought about this a lot in the months after the bombings. I think the correct answer is to not give out information that isn’t accurate, but I think in cases like this and 9/11 it’s really hard to keep up with the event itself and the demand for information. If journalists waited for things to play out, I think a lot of people would’ve been angry…but that doesn’t necessarily excuse the wrong information that was given out.

    I also remember the bombings playing out on Twitter…it seemed information was being given out, spread, and retracted on Twitter. I personally kept up with the event on Twitter, and I remember reading the story about the missing Brown student being a suspect. I think it’s important to know that so much is happening that of course information is going to be false or misconstrued – especially because it’s happening as the event happens, and online to boot

    I think you try to keep up with the definitive facts – in the case of the Marathon, it would’ve been what happened and where. Keeping up with suspects and death/injury tolls would be an ongoing process, so I don’t think it’s okay to release names of suspects or names of people injured or killed without it coming from a reliable source – i.e., the family of the victims or the police. I think places like Reddit and Twitter make it really easy to spread false information, so drawing sources from these places isn’t the way to go. If some internet detectives happened to be right, I think that’s okay to mention in a later article. If you wrongfully published an article stating blame on the wrong person, you correct it as soon as humanely possible and contact the wrongly accused to apologize and settle outside of the media. I don’t think the New York Post was right in publishing that story right off the bat, but I sort of understand why they felt it was necessary – it was such a highly publicized event, and it definitely put me into panic miles away, so the demand for information probably pressured them into doing so.

  2. You bring up some very interesting points. The media can easily make mistakes, especially in times of a crisis or a tragedy when someone is trying to get to the bottom of a story as quickly as possible. But our number one priority is to remain faithful to telling the truth and informing the people, and we can’t do that by searching through Reddit and the internet for news regarding severe investigations.If other news outlets are reporting death tolls and giving the names of alleged perpetrators without police or authority confirmation, then address that. Say that other reports have not yet been confirmed and you and your news station are waiting for the actual confirmed facts. It seems more responsible, it helps people understand the truth, and it gives you something to report so you still have a story. When it comes to a tragedy like the Boston Marathon Bombings, you have to be careful. Naming someone who is innocent is a horrendous mistake, and exaggerating death toll or injury numbers is just as bad. Wait for the confirmation, because that’s the smart thing to do.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: