News These Days

MC201 Final Project,
J. Smith
Derek Kerr

It's interesting to note how the speed at which we expect news can change the quality of the news we receive. The picture above depicts a famous gaffe by the Chicago Tribune from 1948. The Tribune, so focused on getting the paper out in time to be topical it published incorrect election results. The parallels between this mistake and the ones frequently made by modern news outlets are easy to draw. Something like this was (and is) an incredibly embarrassing mistake for newspapers. With a lengthier turnaround time than television or internet news, newspapers are sold based on the quality of the information they report rather than the speed with which they can report it.

As twenty-hour news networks grasp for relevancy in a field increasingly dominated by the instantaneous speed with which the internet is capable of delivering information, sensationalism and incorrect reports have become part and parcel. Working in a medium that demands you KEEP peoples attention BEFORE you inform them means that apologies are enough to get the forgiveness of most. Sometimes people don't even ask for apologies.

Heck, one of my favorite TV shows is essentially BUILT on pointing out the hypocrisy and mistakes made by major news networks and it's won like a bazillion Emmys.

So, when something big happens you can't bet television news is going to be there reporting, and you can BET that they're going to muck it up a few times before they get it right. Reports immediately following the bombing indicated that a "Saudia-Arabian male" had been detained for questioning as a suspect. When this was proven untrue a follow-up report came out suggesting that two men photographed at the scene of the crime were being sought by the police.

The story, taken from the New York Post's website (internet news, problematic on it's own, given it's entire economy is based on page-views) and relayed by television news ended up being false, and one of the suspects in question, a 17-year-old, was advised by law-enforcement to deactivate his Facebook page because of the huge amount of harassment the false accusations had brought down upon him.

Also indicated in the attack was Sunlil Tripathi, a student from Brown Univsersity who'd been missing when the bombing occurred. Humorously (in an incredibly dark way, mind you, I swear I'm not crazy) Tripathi's body was later found in the Providence River. He'd been dead the whole time.

The problems here are self-evident. As methods of of news-acquisition become faster confusion becomes greater. Misreports like the "Dewey Defeats Truman" used to be massively embarrassing and were remembered for decades, but now, we see mistakes like these all the time and they're forgotten as quickly as the report is filed. Fact-checking and knowing what you're actually going to say have become less important. Instead what's become important is saying something. ANYTHING. So long as someone's listening.

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