Let’s all repeat the first rule of journalism: Get it right.
Rule number two may state that you also want to get it first, but getting it right is so much more important. And that fact seems to be disappearing in this age of skip the copy editor a
nd get the story online immediately.
It’s all a rush to get it first. A few months ago, Joe Paterno was reported dead a day before he died. A reporter lost his job for that. He got it first but he got it wrong.
Things like that kill credibility.
And then the SCOTUS announced its decision on President Obama’s healthcare law. And both CNN and Fox news got it wrong.
They were first.
But they were still wrong.
And journalism took another hit. News media across the country rushed to point out how wrong CNN and Fox both were. Both announced their mistakes, although Fox did so with a little less remorse.
And everybody shook their heads and nodded about the current trends of the media.
But here’s the problem. These constant mistakes don’t just reflect on CNN and Fox. A blow to CNN’s credibility is a blow to all journalists across the country. It’s another hit on the credibility meter, one that continues to shrink with every mistake. It wasn’t just the television shows either. NPR’s Diane Rehm said three times that the mandate had been struck down, attributing the first to CNN but not attributing the next two. As serious as CNN or Fox’s blunder? No. but it still has the same effect.
Yes, this is a different age. The news cycle now calls for new information to be uploaded immediately. Chief Justice John Roberts began by saying that Congress did not have power under the commerce clause to impose the individual mandate, leading some reporters to rush to judgment. Then Roberts said the mandate could be justified as a tax and was constitutional. That’s the new reality. Some say we should just get used to it. When we do get used to it, the first rule of journalism is gone.
Getting it right is still the most important thing.