There are challenges being in the news industry. We are, justifiably, held to a high standard when it comes to getting our facts right. When any news agency blows it, we all look bad and it’s not hard to understand why. However, getting it right isn’t as easy as it may seem.
Friday evening, we at the Journal was saddened to report the death of Darton wrestler Ben Richards. We, along with WALB and WFXL reported the death, only to receive a retraction of the story. The news came from Darton itself, so we reported it. We also reported the retraction.
Throughout the community, we news outlets were subject to ridicule for the retraction. Frankly, I understand it. The whole situation was more fluid than we knew, and we got hit over it. I won’t accept responsibility for the error, because no mistake was made on our part. This is also true of WALB and WFXL who did as we did. They reported news, only to have to backtrack later.
We were all made to look a bit like fools, but for understandable cause. The news wasn’t really ready to go out just yet, so we got news before the family was ready.
News can be extremely fluid. This was illustrated yesterday with the Washington Navy Yard shooting. News comes fast, and everyone tries to be the first to report something new. It was the epitome of the term “fluid” when it comes to news. As information becomes available, people want to know. Americans have developed a thirst for information, and news outlets strive to cover it.
Sometimes, that information turns out to be less than accurate. Depending on the source of that information, it may be wrong to blame the news outlets for the incorrect information they may report.
Reporters simply report the news. They gather information and essentially repeat it for your consumption. It’s impossible for them to evaluate all of that information for accuracy. Instead, we try to corroborate information as much as possible. That way, if it’s wrong, we can point to multiple sources. In a situation like Washington yesterday, that may or may not happen.
The news industry has its challenges. As consumers of the news, I don’t expect you to cut us slack when we screw up. We produce news for you, and it would be ridiculous to expect you to simply accept the mistakes. Instead, I simply ask that you remain open to the fact that not everything that gets misreported is actually a mistake.