The Media US Politics

Kathleen Parker’s Mature, Sensitive Media at Work

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One has to wonder, in light of the media’s shameful performance in the heartbreaking case of the West Virginia miners, if Kathleen Parker might not want to reconsider her assertion that the press “agonizes more about how to improve its product, police its own members and better serve its communities.”

While they were quick to offer apologies and a healthy dose of blame, where was the mature, sensitive, responsible media that only reports the truth? I wonder if it isn’t possible that Anderson Cooper and Rita Cosby were more interested in the scoop than verifying sources? In truth, that–and a human desire for a positive outcome contributed to a terrible mistake. Perhaps it’s not right to excoriate the media for this one, but perhaps the media should take a look at its own processes before condeming blogs.

Gal Beckerman does a better job of deconstructing the failure of the media:

A close reading of the articles themselves tells the tale of how journalists bungled the story: In most, there are no sources at all for the information; in some, the sources are the rumors spread by frantic family members. Those sorts of sources are hardly a solid basis for headlines screaming, “They’re Alive!”

Certainly, the decision not to immediately correct the rumors helped the story leap to the front pages. But what is equally obvious is that reporters at the scene did not do enough to verify the truth of what they were being told by happy family members. They then produced articles, like the Post‘s and USA Today‘s, that almost unbelievably failed to offer any sources.

And former CNN producer Tom Farmer had this to say:

Too many celebrity anchors assembled in West Virginia last night — not enough reporters. When twelve-alive fever swept the live shot positions, who asked the basic reporter’s question: ‘How do you know?’ Who demanded a second source? Who held back pending more official confirmation? By uncritically and breathlessly relaying shouted bulletins from sprinting family members, the cable celebs transubstantiated rumor into fact. Reporting means asking questions and making cautious judgments, not just repeating things you hear.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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