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Factually fictional

What you might have heard about recent media mishaps, out in the open and under the microscope


Kari Travis | 2014

Kari Travis | 2014

Behind The Times

Kari Travis | Managing Editor

Shame on you.
And you. And you, and you.
No, I’m not talking to you, dear readers. I am merely directing my wishes of shame upon those members of the major news media who so fantastically flubbed reports of the Boston bombings during the past week.

If you turned on a TV at all, you might have noticed all the media misfires. It was one coverage caveat after another as reporters scrambled to be the first to get the scoop.

First, The Washington Post reported that a high school student named Salah Barhoun was a suspect in the case. As it turned out, he wasn’t, according to the Christian Science Monitor. And the misrepresentation got so bad that Barhoun chose to go to a police station to request help in setting the record straight.

The Post wasn’t the only news outlet to fall flat on their well-seasoned reporting skills. The Associated Press, CNN and The New York Times also released an embarrassing set of false reports, saying Thursday evening that authorities had arrested a suspect in the bombing case.

The FBI later set the record straight. Authorities hadn’t arrested anyone. They hadn’t even taken a suspect into custody.

Good job, guys. I’m proud to be a journalism student, striving to achieve fact-gathering excellence so I can join your nonfiction news ranks. . . and publish fiction instead.

I sincerely hope you can detect my sarcasm here.

As you can see, readers, I am not keeping my personal opinions disguised in any way whatsoever here. Why?

Because this is an issue that I, and everyone else at all affected by the monster machine that is news media, (in other words, everyone), should care about.

You might remember a column I wrote at the close of 2012. (Okay, you probably don’t, but I’m going to pretend you do so I feel good about myself.) In that piece, “What about the world?” I challenged each of us to stay in touch with current events by watching and reading more global news.

But if major media outlets continue to place hasty reporting and shocking scoops over accuracy and honesty, then I am going to have to retract my challenge.

Does it seem like I’m overreacting? Maybe.

Before you stop reading, however, please remember with me a similar mistake that CNN made back in July. When the Supreme Court released its ruling on Obamacare, the news organization tweeted that the law had been struck down.

Ummmm . . . yeah. Obviously that wasn’t the case, pun intended.

Perhaps this chronic state of mistaken reporting is a result of the now-instantaneous nature of news. (Facebook, Twitter, the Web, etc.) Or perhaps these venues are simply making it easier for humans to show their impatience and carelessness, especially when reporting.

Either way, we should be outraged at the lack of dependability our most prominent news sources are displaying nowadays.

That being said, please keep reading the news. I know we, (yes, I include myself in this lump of humanly imperfect journalism), make mistakes and let you, dear readers, down on a consistent basis.

But I’m not settling for that kind of careless journalism, and I hope you aren’t either. Continue to challenge media outlets when they misrepresent and betray trust, but realize that not all journalists are incapable of accuracy.

Just keep viewing your Twitter news feed through a critical eye.

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