This week was a week for news of the depressing kind, both nationally and locally (at least for me the reporter). I covered two murder trials, yesterday and today, and watched Facebook users disseminate post after post about the Boston marathon bombing. This week was a week of firsts, or first takes, fresh takes on news and the business of producing news with a criminal bent.
With any major disaster or criminal act that makes headlines, the inevitable always happens: updates, stories, articles, or spots from news organizations that almost always contain kernels of incorrect facts purported to be truth and the shallowness of a story a reporter isn’t able or allowed to take the time to really give it what it needs — double-checking the facts and a little bit of depth.
It’s like the version of news we receive is on crack, steroids, or speed, and I think most news organizations feel pressure to get it out the fastest, to break it first, to give readers that first taste of something important. I don’t blame the news or the reporters or even the editing staff. I do however blame technology and because of it, our (me, you, everyone’s) need for instantaneous satisfaction — even if it means it’s wrong.
Are we really at the point where two sentences equals a story? Two sentences is nothing, it tells nothing, it gives a taste of the bare minimum and satisfies a nasty habit that takes all the fun out of story-telling or consuming a story. There’s no nuance, there’s no weaving a story, there’s no talent to it and it’s hard to get it right.
In fact everyone, anyone, can do that with a twitter account and a smart phone, which is why people continue to say journalists are on their way out, journalism is a dying art, news is slanted and incorrect, I don’t trust any of it.
And yet, here we are Facebooking away, staring at blips of thought on a computer screen, anxiously awaiting news of the short kind. And those news organizations are out there, giving us exactly what we want, and telling us their reporting is sub-par, that they haven’t had a chance to really look into it and may have to correct what they’re initially reporting at a later time.
And they did.
NPR did and they are still doing it. Three people died, not two. And the same thing happened with the Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting. The numbers were different at every news organization you turned to. I don’t understand, is it so hard to just wait? To get it right the first time and every time. Isn’t that what we’re here for?
To report the truth accurately.
To tell the story that needs to be heard, not the one we’re asked for.
I think we’ve forgotten.