Wednesday, June 22, 2005

You Heard it Here First

Why the obsession with delivering news first? It's a race out there, and it's an easy one to win. Just tell them what you hear and check details later. We all remember the 2000 election, when the presidential election was deemed "over" months before it should have been. We saw it with Rathergate, the Wendy's finger hoax, the runaway bride, published photos of Michael Jackson's eventual prison cell (via AP). WMDs? Stations report allegations, then report their implications, but know that by questioning them, they are only working harder to report nothing.

Then... shock! The story is actually not what was reported at all! The facts weren't facts. Of course, that was the plan all along--see, retracting a story is a story itself, though it will be framed as informative, not apologetic. That's two stories, where the holding out for the truth is no story at all for the same effort. It was a roll of the dice, a gamble to be there first, truth a blessing or truth be damned. The problem is, everyone is running the race, so when one organization jumps the gun, others follow.

What if there was a news organization that we could trust? One that would aggressively verify and challenge its sources, and not just quote them. A news agency that you would look to confirm all others.

Why do viewers have to be the skeptical ones? If we can't believe what the news reports, what value does it have?