Wednesday, August 20, 2008

It's Jim Brady All Over Again

Category: News Rant

If you are old enough, you remember the assassination attempt on the life of President Reagan on March 30, 1981. Reagan's press secretary, James Brady, was shot in the head during the attack. In their rush to be "first with the news," CBS reported Brady died without checking their facts.

Flash forward to August 20, 2008. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a Congresswoman from Cleveland, is declared dead by CNN, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, two Cleveland TV news station web sites, a Cleveland radio station, and then it's picked up by everyone as official.

One problem: this was at approximately 2:00 p.m. Tubbs Jones was still alive at the time.

Two hours later, the media outlets are tripping over themselves, blaming -- of course -- everyone except THEMSELVES for not checking sources. A number of comments left at various Cleveland news outlets voiced as much outrage over the inaccurate reporting as the sadness over the sudden loss of their representative.

And they should be outraged. Only one station's web site stated that a news conference was scheduled for 2 PM and nothing else, bucking the trend to be first with the news and settling instead to be first with the correct news.

It doesn't take that much effort to check a source. And the fact that the Congresswoman did indeed succumb to the massive brain aneurysm later in the evening does not excuse the WRONG reporting of her early demise.

WKYC's web site has a motto posted: "Report the facts. Respect the truth." Their site was the sole holdout for confirmation of Tubbs Jones' condition, and as a result they were the only ones who did not have to wipe egg off their face...or require a refresher course in Journalism 101.

My condolences to Stephanie Tubbs Jones' friends and constituents, and especially her family who should not have to endure the added trauma of bad news reporting for the sake of being able to brag they were "first to report" in a future ratings commercial.

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