The Importance of Scholarly Evidence in Media

Think back to December 14th, 2012. Most likely, you were peeled to your television or computer waiting for updates on the Sandy Hook School shooting. You were thrown with so much information at once, it was hard for you to process. One fact journalists reported that there were two possible shooters and one of those were dead. Of course, you immediately panic because one of the shooters that just killed an unknown amount of children (at that time) is still on the loose. But wait, you hear a few hours later that it was one shooter, Ryan Lanza. A picture of him flashes on the screen, and his image is permanently etched into your brain. What a terrible, terrible person, you think. Ryan’s picture becomes viral on Facebook very quickly. However, you turn on your TV later to realize that the report was a mistake, the shooter was actually Adam Lanza, Ryan’s brother whom he had not seen in a few years. These news outlets had reported mistakes in order to get the news out there quickly.

Of course, journalists nowadays believe it’s important to get the news out first and VERY fast. But where is that line drawn between getting the correct information out and getting it out first? We live in a world where people want the news as soon as it happens. News spreads virally over social media sites shared by friends. However, because of the 24/7 news cycle, errors are much easier to make when reporting stories.

In my opinion, it’s more beneficial to wait it out and get scholarly evidence before you report the news. But wait, you say, what if our rival news station gets it out first?! Then we’re nothing compared to them! No, not exactly.  There’s a great chance that the rival station has reported false information if they quickly released their report. In the end, that gives them worse credit. Although viewers want information quickly, viewers also don’t like to be lied to. Don’t publish an incomplete story first, wait to publish a whole story later.

Instead of putting the report out quickly, reporters  must focus on finding the correct sources. Don’t cut corners and ask the cousin twice removed’s ex husband of the victim who wanted five minutes of fame, go straight to her mother. If the police chief says he needs 10 minutes to process information, give him that ten minutes. Yes, you may have your boss breathing down your neck. but at least you won’t have 1,000’s of hate mail letters sent to you for reporting a very wrong piece of information.

It’s import to check your information. Then double check that information with another source or sources. Let’s say one eye witness said the robber was wearing a blue shirt, and you reported him wearing a blue shirt. However, three others said he was wearing a yellow shirt, so details could make a huge difference in the report.

In addition, you should focus on attaining more scholarly sources, such as an anhydrous ammonia expert instead of a police sheriff to explain what anhydrous ammonia is. Make sure your sources have good relevance to your story. The more knowledge they have, the better.

If the world could just slow down a little bit, reporters wouldn’t have to worry about reporting false information because they could rely on more scholarly evidence. Of course we want to know everything right away, but wouldn’t it make more sense to get the correct information a little bit later in the day? I sure think so.

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Posted on April 21, 2013, in The Importance of Scholarly Evidence. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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