Saturday, September 21, 2013

Misinformation at Modern Speeds


When I began writing this blog, it was a way to vent my frustrations with rampant bad writing that now permeates mass media. But in today’s warp-speed information world, there is another issue that has become increasingly problematic, and that is bad reporting as a result of trying to beat every other media outlet to the “breaking story.”

Case in point: According to a Huffington Post story, on the day of the Washington Navy Yard shootings a man by the name of Rollie Chance helped his daughter get ready for school. As he went about the rest of his day, he heard about the shootings and quickly realized they had taken place at the very building where he used to work.

As if that wasn’t shocking enough, ABC news called his house seeking information about the accused gunman, who’d been identified as Rollie Chance. Shortly afterward, FBI agents showed up and were surprised that their prime suspect, who was presumed dead, was standing before them. It seems the badge Chance turned in to security officials in October 2012 was recovered at the scene, which led authorities to his door in pursuit of possible leads in the case. Somehow that detail leaked to media outlets, and the chaos began.

This isn’t the first time that reporters have gotten the facts wrong early in an unfolding incident. Sadly, I don’t think it will be the last. But what modern media seems to blissfully ignore are the detrimental effects their misinformation has on the innocent people swept up in the frenzy. Chance and his family are still being pursued by the press, and have been forced to change daily routines in an attempt to continue on with their lives.

"I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy,” Chance told the Huffington Post. “I think there needs to be some accountability in reporting. Instead of being the first reporter to have breaking news, you have to have accountability. Verify before you vilify.”

Sound advice from someone who’s living the nightmare.

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