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Karla's Kolumn

TV news strives for sensationalism, not accuracy


April 2, 2016

I’ve said in this space before a couple of my favorite Sunday news talk shows are Reliable Sources on CNN and Media Buzz on Fox. They talk about media coverage from the week’s events. I would think this week they’ll have plenty to talk about especially after Monday’s debacle in reporting from two of the three major 24-hour news stations.

Monday I went home for lunch and flipped on the news and found coverage of the lockdown at the Capitol. Switching between the three main all-news coverage outlets I found all three reporting something different.

Being in the news business I wondered how can this be. I understand when there’s a massive tragedy or terror attack, things are chaotic and happening rapidly and it’s hard to find reliable sources on the number of casualties.

This was one shooter. He was already caught and on his way to the hospital, something CNN, Fox and MSNBC all seemed to agree on. Their agreement stopped there.

Fox reported an officer had been shot. MSNBC reported an officer was injured but not shot. CNN had it right. No officers had been injured but rather a woman civilian, a bystander, had been injured. When I left home though I didn’t know which one was right.

When I got to work I checked the Associated Press and their headline was “injuries unclear” but their final update said that reports of an officer being shot proved to be “erroneous.”

How does this happen? How can this happen? Are TV news stations in such a hurry they’ll take anyone’s word about what happened without verifying?

That’s the problem with trying to be first rather than accurate. It’s hard writing on deadline but once again, as I have in the past, I caution the TV news media to not report something unless it’s confirmed and accurate.

I have seen some news outlets say, “other outlets are reporting this but we haven’t confirmed anything.” Well by saying that you are reporting it, and it’s irresponsible. People listening only hear the first part, they don’t hear the “has not been confirmed.”

In Monday’s cases all three networks were reporting their information as fact. No one said anything about the facts not being confirmed. Rather than reporting it as hearsay or rumor, they reported it as fact.

I also saw last night that recent reports of 147 FBI agents being assigned to the Hillary Clinton email scandal were erroneous. In contrast there were 120 agents assigned to the Oklahoma City bombing, begging the question why so many more for the email scandal?

Well, now there are reports that the number of agents are “less than 50” in one report and around 12 in another report. Twelve is fewer than 147. Unfortunately the FBI is not revealing the actual number.

So who was the “reliable source” who gave news agencies the 147 number? More importantly why did the news agencies believe them? Because they wanted to? Because it sounded more sensational than 12? Because they wanted something to make Clinton look bad? (She doesn’t need any help in that area.)

We strive for reporting facts here at the Daily News. We won’t print rumors even though some readers have asked us to. If we can’t verify something for ourselves or through a reliable source and no, Facebook is not always a reliable source, then we don’t print it.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe the major news networks have the same standards, but they should.


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