Media blunders in health care decision spark ethics discussion

June 28, 2012 Leave a comment

CNN wasn’t the only one to get today’s SCOTUS decision wrong, which has spurred a lively conversation about the risks in rushing to beat the competition.

A friend and former WisPolitics colleague, Greg Bump, pointed out two interesting articles on the issue:

From the American Journalism Review:

Now there’s no doubt the scoop is a time-honored tradition in journalism. Breaking a big story is a big deal. And that competition to unearth powerful and important stories can be a very positive force.

But worrying about being first on reporting something that is handed to you and everyone else? By 24 seconds? To borrow the Gail Collinsism, I think I speak for everyone when I say, it’s really not important.

Worse than that, it’s dangerous. The health care decision is a complicated piece of business. It’s worth taking the time required to fully understand it before reporting on it. It’s that rush to be first or almost first that leads to world-class mistakes like CNN and Fox News made this morning, when they reported the health care law had been overturned.

And from Katy Culver on the UW-Madison J-school blog:

Journalists have an ethical obligation to be accurate. They have a fiscal interest to retain their credibility and differentiate themselves from the waves of information, misinformation and disinformation that pound digital media shores.

No one outside a newsroom cares whether Reuters ran an alert 30 seconds before AP.

So when news organizations need to get facts right out of both ethical duty and fiscal self-interest, why on earth would they not spend two minutes reading one of the most important court decisions of our age? That question needs an answer at CNN and any other newsroom that hopes to weather the challenge of smaller, more nimble and motivated competitors like SCOTUSblog.

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SCOTUS Affordable Care Act decision: CNN gets it wrong

June 28, 2012 2 comments

Granted, this is a bit of a gotcha post and mistakes happen, but this is just another case that illustrates the need for media to slow down and make sure they get it right before spreading news, especially when dealing with complex and monumental matters like this.

In its first post CNN declared the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act dead:

A few minutes later they changed the post to correct “struck down” to “upheld,” but it was still confused. The post doesn’t acknowledge the error, but offers some explanation for those who may have seen it:

 The error made it on to the Milwaukee FOX affilliate, and I’m sure others that get feeds from CNN.

See screenshots of the entire pages:



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