Another breaking news story, another list of news media mistakes. Same old, same old, right? Except this time, a new question came up: Are breaking news mistakes even worth covering anymore?
That question raised by Politico media columnist Dylan Byers came on a day when multiple news organizations got the facts wrong about the shooting at Los Angeles International Airport. Several news outlets fell for what apparently was a hoax and another put out wrong information.
Toronto’s Globe and Mail was one of several news organizations to report falsely that a former head of the National Security Agency was among those killed in the incident. The paper attributed the information online to wire services, although there’s no indication they ever reported it. In fact, the erroneous information came from a newly created Twitter account, @HeadIineNews (with a capital “I” instead of an “L” in the middle), and used the avatar of the well-respected @BreakingNews account. The fake account has since been suspended.
That wasn’t the only significant error that day. NBC News reported as fact, with no attribution, that the shooter had been killed.
That wasn’t true, and NBC quickly took it back.
It’s hardly the first time news organizations have gotten it wrong when covering breaking news. Remember CNN’s mistakes during the Boston Marathon bombings? How ABC goofed on the Aurora Colorado theater shootings? But does that mean media errors have become so commonplace they’re no longer worth talking about?
Hardly. A better question, Politico’s Byers himself decided, is why does this keep happening? Why don’t they wait for official confirmation before putting information out? His answer: “Because it’s breaking news, and breaking news is messy. Because there’s air to fill. Because ratings. Because…” What’s your answer?