Wednesday, January 30, 2019

We All Do It But...

Jump to conclusions that is.

Seems to be human nature, but that’s no excuse for trained journalists to do so.
Yes, I’m talking about the “CovCath” students in DC.
When I first saw the smiling young man standing so close to the drum-beating elderly man, my reaction was: who is he? Why is he smiling, but saying nothing? Who is the drum beater and why is he beating his drum?  Who are all those noisy people in the background and where is all this going on?
These are the questions reporters should ask, and many did, but a little late. Meanwhile people everywhere seem to have jumped to their own conclusions about those answers and gone on social media to tell the rest of us what the “answers” were, when, in fact, they didn’t know---either. (One lady blogger in San Francisco, telling the world she actually lived in Brazil, had a lot to say---mostly wrong...but she somehow got on the news.)
And now the media messed things up even more.  Not having trained journalists at the scene, we fell back on reporting the video as interpreted by social media reports, from people, not there as well. It took awhile, several days in fact to get things straightened out, at least some semblance of “the truth” all of which was not helped one whit by a statement put out by the Catholic diocese in Covington whose officials hadn’t been there either.
To the media’s (belated) credit, when complaints came in, and experienced minds prevailed, interviews with the participants got the “real” story (whatever that turns out to be) going, and a better approximation of what actually happened.
The media often quotes social media, many times it has to since no journalist was there at the time, but it needs to make very clear the “attribution” of those reports and views. (That’s  an old J school maxim, but often overlooked these days---to all of our disservice.)
Local case in point. Monday when Adam Edelen filed for governor (after Bevin had finally filed Friday) one local anchor reported "and the field is set over on the GOP side,too.”)  I fired off an e-mail to her saying "Not til 4:01pm tomorrow,” which was the filing deadline, and, sure enough some guy neither she nor I had heard of did file against Bevin.
My message is clear: resist all those jumps to conclusions, evaluate the source of the information, give it some time...things do tend to get corrected, it’s just that we can screw things up early on.
Remember, we’re all only human.
I'm just sayin'...

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