It has to be accurate.

Like the rest of the world right now, I am extremely saddened by the school shooting in Connecticut that happened on December 14, 2012.  To have so many that are so young lose their life, is inconceivable.  My heart goes out to all of those in the Newtown community as they will never be able to forget what happened this day.  Writing has become somewhat therapeutic for me, especially when dealing with news that has come out today, so I wanted to share some of my thoughts regarding the media reporting of the day.

In addition to the horrible events of the day, what has stuck out to me is some of the irresponsibility of journalists and news organizations around the world that have been “reporting” the events of the day.  I threw out the following tweet:

Is it just me, or should we expect journalists to get it right as opposed to share it first? A lot of misinformation out there today.

This tweet stemmed from earlier in the day when the shooter’s name was revealed and it was reported that he had killed his mom that was a teacher while in the school.  Later in the day, the name of the shooter had changed and so did the mom’s position and where she was at the time she was killed.

I actually feel disgusting even writing the above paragraph.  Those are not things that should be just thrown out by the media to the world unless they are 100% sure.  Not 50%, and not even 99%.  It has to be 100%.  Those are life-changing statements.

As someone who has been an administrator for several years now, one piece of advice has always stuck out to me was from my former secretary who had said to me, “When you call home to parents regarding something that their child has done wrong, always remember that you are about to destroy their world.  Make sure that you show that you care about their child.”  Now that is when a student has done something wrong; I can’t even imagine what it would be like to share something this horrific.  I watch parents go pale when a lockdown drill is even mentioned, let alone if the real thing happens.  Reporting news regarding what happened in Connecticut is going to destroy lives, and you must realize that people turn to “trusted” news sources during this time.  It has to be accurate.

Social media has changed so many aspects of our lives.  Many educators now realize that kids can learn from many people and have to reconsider how we teach and learn.  Kids now don’t have the luxury of screwing up the same way we did as kids, because it becomes a part of their digital footprint and they are accountable to that.  Even doctors have to be more cognizant of their work (as they should be), because, well, you could go to ratemds.com and see how they are based on a small sliver of information.  There are so many good things with social media, but there are also bad, which is normal with any technological advance in our world.  The rules of the game may have changed, but shouldn’t many of the outcomes be similar? If a news outlet is meant to report the news, then report the news.  If I wanted entertainment, I would go to TMZ.

Maybe, as many schools and educators are doing, journalists and media organizations need to go back and revisit what their purpose is?  I am seeing many in the media now writing “opinion” columns on fields that are not their usual areas.  One hockey reporter now writes on some of the problems he views in education.  As he is a parent, I think that he should absolutely have a say on his child’s education, but is using the newspaper he works for as the platform even ethical?  As an educator,we give up certain things when we go into the career, as does a journalist.  I could force my political views upon a student because I can and have the platform, but that doesn’t mean I should or that I would.  If you are a “journalist” and you want to share opinion pieces, maybe start your own blog.  Many people take what a journalist says as fact whether it is an opinion piece or not and using a forum that has the reach of a newspaper does not seem right.  As an educator, there are things expected out of us and as a journalist, there are things that I expect out of you.  I need to trust that you are giving me the facts.

I looked at my Twitter stream today and saw many of my friends talking about what happened, and I learned a lot of what happened today yet I knew not all of it was correct.  What scares me, is I think that many journalists did exactly the same.  They may have turned on Twitter to get quick soundbites and snippets of information, as opposed to finding out what really happened.

As in any field, there are people that are amazing what they do, and some that aren’t, education included, so I hate to paint this picture with such a broad brush.  All I know is that if I want “quick”, I know I can go to Twitter, knowing that the information is probably not 100% accurate.  Educators and parents are going to be having some extremely tough conversations with kids regarding what has happened in Connecticut, so on days like today, I, and millions of others need journalists to get it right.

Update***

My brother shared the following quote from the Reuter’s “Handbook of Journalism” that shows I am not the only one that expects accuracy:

Accuracy is at the heart of what we do. It is our job to get it first but it is above all our job to get it right. Accuracy, as well as balance, always takes precedence over speed. 

 

10 thoughts on “It has to be accurate.

  1. garystager

    Of course these issues are complicated and the events of the day are horrific.

    It may be ahistoric to assert that the first draft of history has ever been 100% accurate. There are PLENTY of examples to disprove this myth.

    Much of the shoddy journalism and haste in reporting is the result of electronic communication and the 24-hour news cycle, but social media has also played a major role. We have experienced a serious diminution of expertise and an online public that refuses to pay for professional journalism. Education “reportage” is either stenography or entirely based on the writer’s “feelings.” Schools are rushing to “flip their classroom” when the seminal book on the fad does not contain a single reference or bibliography. So, we’re willing to set pedagogical practice based on a standard we would not accept from a 9th grader’s essay.

    That said, I learned that an outstanding jazz musician lost his daughter in today’s shooting when a number of my “friends” posted condolences. It was several hours before the condolences were provided with the facts confirming my worst fears. It’s unlikely that any media would report the loss of a jazz musician (who may have moved to suburbia to give his family a better life than in NYC).

  2. Shelley Friesen

    I am also saddened by the misinformation that comes out. I appreciate the journalists who report some of the rumours with the disclaimer that is is ‘raw’ or ‘not confirmed’, but then why report it at all? We run with rumours in so many aspects of our lives, it would be more reassuring to have an outlet we could trust.

  3. Pingback: Shooting in Connecticut and accuracy, authority and the Net. | Hack the Classroom

  4. Mike F

    I first heard about it on my way out of school on Friday. I listened to NPR in the car, as always. It struck me how conservative their reporting was. The farthest they would go was to say that “the NY Times has reported…but we have not yet confirmed that.” I have always appreciated NPRs efforts for good quality news work, and this was no more evident than yesterday. Once I was home I put the TV on: CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox, everyone was filling the void of official information with half confirmed truths, theories, opinions, and so on. I was frustrated with how they were handling the situation – it seemed incredibly selfish. It is disrespectful to everyone involved to treat such an event with anything other than professionalism, selflessness, and as you say, accuracy. And thanks for this post.

  5. shareski

    Given the realities of 2012 in which citizen journalism is a reality trying to distinguish professionals from amateurs is very difficult. Add to that the bombardment of data in single streams of information and the task gets even harder.
    As well the journalist who waits to be 100% accurate and posts something 24-48 hours later is essentially irrelevant. I’m not saying that’s right but it their reality. In the example you give, as a principal you’re not competing with others to any degree on the facts of the story and you also carry a reputation as an authority.

    This is no longer a lesson for journalists exclusively but for everyone.

    At the same time I wonder if the more prudent approach is to focus more on individuals ability to process and test accuracy rather than attempt to sway the reporters. I suppose it’s both but I’d argue the ship has sailed on this one and its unlikely we’ll ever get back, if indeed we ever had a time when journalists were 100% accurate before publishing.

    1. garystager

      Dean,

      My fear is that professional journalists are being reduced to the quality of (amateur) citizen “journalists.”

      How many of our colleagues (I could name names) tell teachers they should learn lessons in an article from Forbes, without recognition that Forbes is virulently anti-public education, or a McKinsey study without recognizing that McKinsey brought us the Enron scandal and much of the last economic crash? How many followers of Bill Gates and his anti-teacher union remedies recognize that the company he built has been in trouble for gross labor violations for years?

      Consider the source seems to have been lost.

      1. shareski

        Gary,

        I don’t disagree, but the ship has sailed. I can’t imagine we’ll return to a time when information gets carefully vetted until full or high levels of agreement surface. Or an age where Walter Cronkite and a few publications were our filters.

        I think it’s about elevating a twitter infatuated society to include and be reminded of thoughtful, well argued positions and ideas. I think it’s an uphill battle but it’s the reality of our day.

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