Speed vs. Accuracy

Ask yourself this question. Do you think it’s more important to be the first one to complete a task, or to be the first one to complete it properly?  I’m looking at a broad picture with that question, but in the world of social media information can get around at an alarming rate, and with that news outlets are feeling the pressure to get stories out to the public as quickly as possible.  While this is part of the job for a journalist sometimes the facts and the accuracy of the stories are compromised.

I understand mistakes happen and will continue to happen, but in the case of news stories mistakes are only amplified with the use of social media.  Sites like Twitter or Facebook are frequently used to post headlines, and anyone can on those sites read the headlines and repost them, thus quickly spreading the word of any given story.  Can you begin to see how posting the wrong information could lead to some potential issues?

Let’s look at the shooting that took place in Arizona two years ago when Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, was shot.  Of course when the news broke about the shooting Twitter and Facebook exploded with posts in regards to the issue.  However, things would become confusing when a report came through that said Giffords was killed in the shooting.

The claim was never verified, but various news outlets like CNN, Fox News and CBS reported that she was killed anyway.  As we would later learn Giffords was, in fact, still alive and in surgery at the time.  These outlets, amongst others had to apologize for reporting false information.

Even though the claims were never verified why did these outlets decide to report the story?  I believe it is that pressure to be one of the first few to get the story out before others.  Social media has created a pressure on journalist and organizations to get the story out there as quickly as possible before it reaches media sites.   Once a report is released it can spread quckly on sites like Twitter, whether it is other news outlets or just the average Twitter or Facebook user.

Earlier this week I watched an episode of The Newsroom, which is a fantastic show, which dealt with them covering the shooting in Arizona.  Even though station was getting numerous reports about Giffords death they refused to report on it until they received confirmation.  Turns out they did the right thing, and it really stuck with me how important it is to get it right rather than to be the first one to get it wrong.


One thought on “Speed vs. Accuracy

  1. Good start. It feels like there is some missed linking potential here. There was a LOT of discussion around coverage of the Giffords shooting, yet examples of this are largely missing from your post. WIth the focus you’ve identified, you should be providing examples wherever possible, whenever possible. Here’s another example: In your second graf, you write “Sites like Twitter or Facebook are frequently used to post headlines,” which is another likely contender for a link. You don’t want to overdo it, but get into the habit of showing either evidence or an example whenever you make a claim – it’ll quickly become second nature.

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