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No matter how fast CNN can report false information, accuracy remains paramount in media

At the Daily Wildcat, we have a framed copy of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics. These are guidelines that every journalist should try to follow in order to ensure that people are delivered news in the best possible way. In bold, at the top of the page, is the most important guideline for any journalist: “Seek truth and report it.”

During the events that followed the Boston Marathon bombing, the press failed to live up to that guideline.

The Wednesday following the bombing, CNN and other news outlets reported that a dark-skinned male had been taken into custody by the FBI in connection with the bombings. An hour later, photos were released of two white suspects, wanted by the FBI.

CNN was the first to report the false news and they have taken a hit for it. From Jon Stewart roasting CNN on “The Daily Show” to Internet memes making fun of the network’s lack of reliability, CNN has certainly taken grief for its mistake, as it should.

While getting information out quickly is important in attracting viewers or Twitter followers, that information is useless if it isn’t accurate.

In the case of the bombing, social media and the Internet was full of “breaking news.” Every outlet was trying to report the news but in their attempts to keep people safe, the they produced more confusion and more terror. Reporting that the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum had been targeted and more than two bombs had exploded led to chaos and caused people to jump to conclusions.

This all could have been prevented had news outlets cared more about reporting the truth rather than reporting first.

As the Internet continues to become more prominent in journalism, news outlets will have to adapt. CNN won’t beat somebody on Twitter and they won’t beat Reddit’s live updates.

In the marathon confusion, some news outlets even reported wrong information that they found online at sites like Reddit, connecting Sunil Tripathi, a missing student from Brown University, to the bombings.

CNN must change or they will be overtaken by the Internet.

In the age of citizen journalists, where everyone has a cameraphone, broadcast news outlets can’t expect to be the “first” to report news for very long. What they can do however, is make sure the news that is reported is accurate.

News outlets have something that citizen journalists do not: a journalist’s training. They have the sources to fact check information, they know how to report a story and are paid for their accuracy and lack of bias.

If CNN left the breaking news to others and focused on reporting the truth, it would be the most reliable source for information.

Rumors and speculation have no place in the news. The primary responsibility of a journalist is to seek the truth and report it. CNN knows this, and should start showing it, both to protect both the people and its name.

— Dan Desrochers is the opinions editor. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.


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