A Non-Partisan Resource for Journalists

Why are so Many Gun Stories Wrong?

A couple of university researchers tried to find out why journalists are making so many errors in crime coverage.  The Sandy Hook shooting was notable in that way.  The researchers heard from journalists who say they are not just feeling daily pressure to report quickly, they feel the pressure every minute of the day.  Here is a passage from the story:

We asked Mark Becker, who has spent 28 years as a crime and courts reporter for WSOC-TV in Charlotte, NC, to describe how spot news coverage has changed for him in the past decade. He said: The fact is that now everything is instant. There was always pressure to be there and be first; and now, if it’s possible, that pressure has increased. We don’t hold information anymore. The station bought us iPhones about a year ago. As soon as you get on the scene of a story, you snap a couple of pictures and you get it on the website. You’re streaming video on the Web if you’re not going to be live on TV. This constant flow of information starts the moment you get somewhere. You may sometimes hold back if you don’t see another crew somewhere, but most of the time that ends up blowing up in your face, so most of the time we instantly put it on air or online. The danger is that sometimes you go on with something that’s not quite cooked yet-it’s information that may not be exactly correct. Maybe police haven’t figured out exactly what was going on, but then they give you information and later you find out that the police or firefighters didn’t have it right. It’s hard to hold your breath and say you’re going to wait. Becker added that he does not expect the technology-driven pressure to diminish in the future. “Any time technology goes up against tradition, technology wins,” Becker said. “I’m sure Gutenberg got a lot of crap for his invention. He probably heard, ‘It won’t be the same if Brother Horatio isn’t doing the copying by hand anymore.’”

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