Accuracy in reporting should trump all else

Should journalists strive to be accurate or the first to break a story?

In the age of the internet, we are accustomed to consuming content at hyperspeed. We have access to an unlimited amount of articles and broadcasts in the very palm of our hands. Not to mention, journalists are quick to update their social media followers on word they have received. When news breaks, often it is in its developing stages. Information reported early is highly likely to be inaccurate.

On Monday, classic rock musician Tom Petty was hospitalized after being found unconscious at his residence and in full cardiac arrest. After the news of his hospitalization spread, journalists reported his death prematurely. CBS tweeted that he had passed away when in actuality, Petty was taken off of life support. This engendered an outpouring of tributes for the “Won’t Back Down” singer from fans and stars alike.

This is not the first incident of misinformation circulating around media outlets and it will definitely not be the last. Numerous publications often rush to be the first to break a story instead of taking the time to validate their findings. That isn’t okay. Not only is it unfair to their readership who rely on them to provide facts, but it is disrespectful to spread lies in light of a tragic event, such as a death.

If you’re a writer, you want to have the complete and total trust of your readers or else you will be seen as unreliable. People certainly won’t be interested in viewing your work if you have a spotty reputation. In journalism, amid a sea of so-called “fake news,” trust is everything. It is the very foundation that careers are built off of. The fatal character flaw that careers can be destroyed by.

The next time these journalists want to report an occurrence, they should wait to hear back from their dependable sources rather than allowing themselves to fall into the snowball effect.