Friday, January 06, 2006

That's Settled. Now What?

"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." --Mark Twain

Yesterday, I wrote about the irresponsibility of the press in publishing an unverified story and consequently, winding up with egg on their faces when it became known that they had dropped the ball.

Today, we need to acknowledge that a mistake was made and move on.

A lot has been said about the implications of reporting the story based on rumors and hearsay evidence. But I think it is important to point out here that, although the press did indeed make a mistake, it didn't change the fact that miners died. And if they had done the right thing and made sure the facts were correct, the miners would still be just as dead.

Lets get over the fact that the press made a blunder. Yes, the erroneous information cause a somewhat rollercoaster ride of emotions in the families and friends of the victims in this case. But the press did not spread that information. They merely reported that the reports were true, when in fact, they weren't. They shouldn't have, but they did. I reiterate that there is no excuse for bypassing standard operation procedure, no matter what the circumstances.

So now the families will have to cope with the loss of their loved ones. Something they would have had to do regardless. What I am trying to say is, the news was already all over the town before anyone in the press reported anything. The people adversely affected by the mistake made were us.

Get over it.

Now the questions are, what can be done to avoid this happening in the future? What can be learned from this?

1. First of all, they need to go back to what ER alluded to in his comment yesterday:

"If your mother says she loves you, check it out".

Wise advice.

2. Maybe wait a few more minutes until you are absolutely sure you didn't misunderstand before broadcasting or sending the story to the presses. If you get scooped with the wrong information because you waited, who made the wiser decision?

3. Never use anonymous sources. No one believes you when you quote them anyway.

4. Don't rely on rumors and hearsay. Get verifiable facts from credible sources.

5. Remember, being first is not always going to be the most accurate. In fact, it is more likely not to be as accurate as you think.

Anyway, those are my suggestions coming from someone who doesn't work in the news business. Perhaps my friends in the business can contribute some of their own?


anonymous source said...

Come on, now...

Why would I lie?

Pamela Reece said...

What? The MSM jump on a story without checking it's sources first? Well, blow me down, as Popeye would say. I lost faith the in the media a long time ago. In fact, when I heard Geraldo Rivera uncontrollably screaming into his microphone about the "miracle", I didn't believe him. Thanks to reporters like that, I am nothing by cynical when it comes to journalism. In fact my lack of faith in reporting started on 9/11 when broadcaster kept claiming more and more bombs and airliners were crashing. It was bad enough to watch the Twin Towers being hit, live but to hear them reporting at least 7 more planes being hijacked, only to find out it wasn't true was more than I could stand. I'll never forgive them for doing that to me and America. I would never forgive the media if I were the families of the mining victims, either.

Erudite Redneck said...

I disagreew with No. 3, mainoy because it is the ONLY way that some stories ever get reported, especially fromn the supposedly open government.

"3. Never use anonymous sources. No one believes you when you quote them anyway."

Not "never." "Seldom," and very, very, very carefully.

Watergate would never have been reported thoroughly without Deep Throat. Information wants to be free. Reporters have to cut the chains to free it, though, and sometimes that means taking chances with anon. sources. The downside to that is "leaks." I'll accept that.

Erudite Redneck said...


Pfhth. Then you must live a sad, solitarylife. I get shafted at the McDomnalds drive-through about eveyr third time. I don;t distrust or despise all fast-food vensdors as a result. Sheesh.

As I've said many times before, the "media" is a creatuion of the right-wing. There are a butt load of repoters and editors out there, busting their butts to get it right. Individual, who you can like or hate, trust or despise. But you waste your time and breath by whining about "the media." There reaslly is no such single thing.

Mark said...

I suppose you are right. I should have said seldom use anonymous sources.

But I get so tired of hearing reports that are only substantiated by questionable sources. They are relied upon way too much. I think it has become too easy to use anonymous sources.

It really has gotten to the point where I don't believe them until I get credible information from real people.

Watergate was over-reported and over-reacted to, also, in my opinion. Some people got caught doing what both sides regularly do during the course of a typical political campaign.

Mark said...

Pam, there is a vast difference between reporting that there is "speculation" or "uncomfirmed reports" about something and reporting unsubstatiated rumors as fact.

Mark said...

And as I said, it wasn't the press that told the families that the miners were alive, someone not in the press sent that message to them. The only thing the reporters did was report those rumors as fact.

old soldier said...

“MSM” or “media” is admittedly a conservative term of disrespect given to most newspapers and television news reporting outlets. Conservatives are admittedly fed up with the one-sided “reporting” that is anti-Bush, anti-war, anti-Christian, and anti-conservative in subject presentation. Anything that impacts negatively on the current administration receives over-reporting. It is actually quite obvious and very disgraceful. Selected facts are ignored; lies are perpetuated, etc., etc. Case in point; why didn’t the good news story linked to below, not make it into the major news outlets? I believe I know why.

Mark said...

Old Soldier, that link is broken. Go to this site
to generate links in comments. You can do it, too, ER

Anonymous said...

Hey Mark--

I haven't read all your postings on this, so I apologize if I missed something important.

But, I'm not exactly sure what you are calling the irresponsible action of the press here. Please explain.

I am part of the news business, and, granted -- you are right --we make mistakes, have egg on our face and make judgments without fully assessing their repercussions. I'm embarassed when that happens.

But in this case, and correct me if I'm wrong, the GOVERNOR of the state said he had been informed the miners were alive.

No credible news organization could possibly ignore such an important statement by the top officeholder in West Virginia.

As I understand it, the coal company could have corrected the misinformation -- yet chose not to do it for hours, even as the celebrations continued.

So I agree with you about the press often making mistakes or just plain doing dumb stuff. (And I believe anonymous sources should be used only on very RARE occasions, if at all.)

But I don't really see how the press did much to be ashamed of here. They would have no reason to distrust the governor's remarks as confirmation of what they were being told -- and he wasn't saying it anonymously.

I would point out that we are only human beings trying to do a difficult and important job.

The whole world was waiting to hear what had happened with these miners. The reporters have to rely on what they know, and they can't' be down in the mine with the miners to find out firsthand.

I am very saddened that these false reports occurred, and hate to see all the pain that it added to family members. Most of all, I regret that the miners didn't all come out alive, as was first thought.

Mark said...

Anon, you ask, "I'm not exactly sure what you are calling the irresponsible action of the press here. Please explain."

You can go down to my last post before this one for a complete explanation.

But my opinion is this: The journalists have an obligation to bring us accurate stories. The Governor and all those who repeated the erroneous news that the miners were alive are not reporters, hence, they get a pass.

But the reporters are professionals. They should know better than to make reports without verifying the facts. They have a responsibilty to check their facts before they issue reports. They have no excuse, but this post is an attempt by me to turn a negative into a positive by emphasising that, if journalists are willing, they can make sure this doesn't happen again.

Anonymous said...

Well Mark, what I am suggesting is that the governor DID verify it, thus the erroneous story. No pass for him or the coal company. They are the supposed fact providers in this situation.

Pamela Reece said...

ER, a solitary life? With 4 children? I wish! Whining? Nope, I only yell at my children for doing that. I don't gather my information from the MSM anymore before I reach my own conclusions. I wait to hear all the facts. Could be the lawyer that I am, but that's just how I see it. I don't believe everything I hear nor everything I see at first glance.

Mark, my point was that "reporters" have an obligation to report the facts and not speculate on "supposed" factual "sources".

Erudite Redneck said...

Re, "The Governor and all those who repeated the erroneous news that the miners were alive are not reporters, hence, they get a pass."

OMG. They most certainly do NOT get a pass. THEY are -- or should be -- held to a higher standard than the damn journalists. Is the world really that upside-down on the right?

Pamela, you are a practicing attorney? If not, what do you mean by "lawyer"? I'm just asking.

Erudite Redneck said...

Pamela, re; "I don't gather my information from the MSM anymore before I reach my own conclusions. I wait to hear all the facts."

Sorry, ut unless you literally do all the basic research of every national event and trend, then this is an exaggeration, which is "spin," which is, well, lying. ;-)

KEvron said...

for clarity's aske, could we define "msm"? by that i mean a list of media that are mainstream, thus unacceptable. and maybe a list of those that are not meanstream? of those which are not mainstream, which are to be deemed credible, and which are not, and reasons for both?


KEvron said...

for clarity's whathewho? "sake"....


Mike's America said...

"the "media" is a creatuion of the right-wing."

That's good for a laugh!

Do we need to define "media" or maybe "creatuion" or "right wing" because if today's "media" is "right wing" I'm the Easter Bunny.

Who cares you creatuited it!

I've heard some loons accuse the New York Al Queda Times of being a right wing paper...

ssssuuurrrreeee... Maybe Howard Dean is the child of Karl Rove, but NOT the Times.

Mike's America said...

P.S. Mark: Saw your comment at Trucker Philosophy... Thought you were having a moobat invasion!

Darn... and I sharpened my rhetorical spear and was so looking forward to spearing some moonbat.

Where did they go?

You can delete this post... Or not if you want to stir up the loony lefty Defeat America Pro-Moslem Ramadan crowd.

KEvron said...

"I sharpened my rhetorical spear"

like a bowling ball....


Mark said...

Mike, that was a couple of posts ago, and Tug came to help.

Goat said...

There are a couple of good pieces and links up at The American Thinker about the MSM press and the fall of newspapers.

Erudite Redneck said...

Good articles, yes. Newspapers have undergone tremendous change, and have enjoyed fluctuating influence, from the founding of this country. They're not going away altogether, although many individuals papers have, and will continue to fade away.

For one thing, they are evolving into Websites, adding blogs, and "converging" with TV and radio news outfits.

None of which bothers me much, as a newspaperman. Whatever. As long as there is written news, whether it's on paper or digital, there will be a need for reporters and editors.

Bloggers are the pamphleteers of our time. Pamphleteers were crucial for the circulation and news and opinion during our Revolution. Not so much today.

Blogs could go the same way. Right now, they're hot. Five, 10 years out, who knows?