Guest blog: The disconnect in modern media

The disconnect in modern media

by Erin Caballero

Upon coming home late last night, I turned on the TV and saw on the little scroll on the bottom that Sopranos actor James Gandolfini passed away on June 19th, 2013.

Naturally, I Googled it the second I got a chance, and every major media outlet (CNN, MSNBC, FOX) reported the same set of facts: Gandolfini died at 51 from a massive heart attack. However, smaller websites reported that his death was a hoax, and that he was indeed alive and well.

A major fuel to the fire of media misinformation is the need to get the story first, and it seems the approach with modern-day reporting is the throw-spaghetti-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks one. I understand every journalist’s desire to be the next Woodward/Bernstein that breaks a scandal powerful enough to end a presidency, but what made these two men great was that they took their time and did it right the first time. They didn’t just publish whatever sounded the most titillating, but rather did the necessary fact-checking and kept their sources confidential.

A second major fuel is the natural human tendency to want “news” that already dovetails neatly into their preconceived notions and beliefs. The whole purpose of news (and journalism) is to challenge a prejudice one may have.

Combating media misinformation is as simple as taking a single deep breath and asking some simple questions. Who wrote this? What is their motivation? Where did they get their sources and other information? What  is their credentials/training/expertise?

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2 thoughts on “Guest blog: The disconnect in modern media

  1. I fight this everyday as an editor at my college newspaper. My staff are eager to beat the other news sources and get that AP pick up, and I have people above me pestering about where the story is. However, I hold strong and will not sacrifice the truth to beat some other paper out of the gate. It isn’t worth it. Today’s media is too hungry for recognition.

    • Journalism has always been about sharing information with the public as quickly as possible. But it is important for journalists to always remain objective. They must be extra careful and ensure that accurate information is shared. As I stressed in previous blogs, the media needs to remind themselves – people need to be informed, not misled. Even for journalists, it is important to reevaluate the importance of media literacy training. Failing to do so will result in poor journalism and will only hurt the public.

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