News Analysis – When the Hell Did Confirmation & Facts Cease to Matter?

I’ve mentioned a few times my news background. While I’ve been out of the “biz” a few years now, for so long, it was such a part of my life and identity. The adrenaline rush – there can’t be any illicit or prescribed drug with a high like that.

Two basic tenants of what “makes news” taught in beginner J-school classes are:

If it bleeds, it leads.

Dog bites man isn’t news, but man bites dog is.

A third basic rule, as rock solid and commandment like, handed down from the AP Stylebook as “the bible” – get two, independent, attributable sources.

In essence, don’t speculate. Don’t guess. Unless you’re Woodward with Bernstein to reign you in, no anonymous deep throat sources. Confirm the anonymous. (And protect those sources whose information has been confirmed and indeed puts them at risk .)

I was appalled and sickened by the coverage of some “news” outlets yesterday in the coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing.

I’m still a news junkie, and like most Americans I was glued to the TV and ‘net, trying to source accurate information.

In the barrage of coverage, I realize just how much our trusted news sources have really turned less from news to entertainment. For example, I no longer have any respect for ABC, Diane Sawyer, or George Stephanopolis. Once they started quoting random Facebook and Wikipedia entries as facts, it was all over. Suddenly the State Farm “true on the Internet” commercial came to mind.

I’m no fan of Fox News, but even they tried harder to a point to get attributable sources. They carried coverage of hospitals rather than the same video loop. Granted – they went back downhill shortly after with a commentator advocating genocide of Muslims in America, and an anchor making comments on the air live in direct conflict with the info scroll.

The weirdest coverage, by far, was NBC’s Brian Williams calling the events in Boston “beyond bodacious.” What the hell? Is he the fifth ninja turtle or auditioning for the Point Break remake?

Overall, I think the best, least speculative and most accurate coverage had to go to Scott Pelley and CBS, and Rachael Maddow/Lawrence O’Donnell at MSNBC. They asked smart questions, got their sources on camera and on record, and refused to speculate (as every arm chair expert, myself included, came up with their own theories) as to who could possibly perpetrate this and why.

Maddow’s coverage also included a segment on similar plots that had happened and/or been prevented in the past 25 or so years.

That they were careful to fact check and not guess, earned my respect (not that they need it).

In this day an age when Justin Beiber’s faux pax at the Anne Frank house lead higher than the nut job with nukes in North Korea — it’s encouraging to me that some reporters are still reporters of news. That for some, facts are still the standard.

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