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.
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.