Friday, January 1, 2010

Instant Journalism.....

In these days of instant information (not to mention gratification), I wonder if it's really been all progress. It used to be that journalists were mostly concerned with getting things RIGHT. Now it seems the emphasis is on getting things FIRST, and we'll iron out the details later.

I know there have ALWAYS been flaws with the system, as evidenced by the famous (infamous?) headlines declaring that Dewey had defeated Truman in 1948.

Nowadays we receive "information" at the moment of impact, it seems, and it gets reported whether or not it's factual.

The most recent example I'm thinking of, and I apologize if you're sick of hearing his name, is the Tiger Woods incident. His crash heard round the world happened when Hubby and I were camping and had no internet service. But because I get news alerts on my cell phone, I got a message that Tiger had been "seriously injured" in an automobile accident. Maybe that sort-of erroneous statement was just a harbinger of the REAL injuries that would emerge in the days following the accident.

It's not that I'm particularly worried about whether or not Tiger's troubles are told accurately or not. I'm just worried that in our information age, the information isn't always accurate. It used to be a big deal to print a retraction or a correction when misinformation made its way into the public eye, but even that has apparently fallen by the wayside.

In addition (or perhaps as a result), we have become a knee-jerk society, responding and reacting to news impulsively. I don't have any concrete examples of this, I'm just speaking in generalities. But when I hear a story that is later proved to be wrong, I sometimes think, "What if we had reacted to that when we FIRST heard it?"

This combination has made me even more cynical than I already was. Now when I hear something, I immediately don't believe it. I wait for confirmation or come up with as many contradicting circumstances as I can. It's not that I think people make this stuff up; it's just that I want to be sure the story I'm hearing is the REAL one.

Now I've committed another big sin of journalism -- I've written mostly of generalities without specific examples. Good thing I'm not a journalist.

No comments: