Off the Record

Media mistakes put the pressure on for the rest of us

It must've been the most stressful nine minutes for Fox News and CNN producers.

The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on Thursday, June 28, created indisputable drama within media outlets.

Though the decision will go down in the history books, the mistake of some media professionals might be bigger news.

According to the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) Blog, it was 10:06 a.m. when the court released the opinion, the decision to rule in favor of the health care reform act, and reporters rushed to the box with a hard copy of the opinion and immediately rushed out to report the news.

The first media outlets got the news out less than two minutes after it was released to them. Unfortunately, some of them were wrong.

They didn't read far enough into the decision to see that the measure was actually upheld.

The blog says a CNN producer ok'd the story, citing the court struck down the health care reform act. But within seconds of giving the go ahead, the producer continued reading.

"Chief Justice Roberts concluded in Part III-B that the individual mandate must be construed as imposing a tax on those who do not have health insurance, if such a construction is reasonable."

Before the producer could catch the mistake, it had already gone live. Fox News did the same thing.

Apparently, a few paragraphs ahead of the above quote, the decision stated that "Chief Justice Roberts concluded...that the individual mandate is not a valued exercise of Congress's power under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause."

They took that information and ran with it, saying, "It appears as though the measure was struck down."

I can only imagine the scrutiny these producers endured.

What a terrible mistake.

Being a media professional myself, I know it's a tough job. All eyes are on you to get the information right.

I can also relate, as a member of the public, to a sense of betrayal as I read two differing reports.

Now, according to the SCOTUS blog, CNN issued an official correction just minutes later, at 10:15 a.m. But, the damage was already done.

In our business, being first is a good thing. But if you're first, and you get it wrong, the public will only remember you for your mistakes.

That makes this job, especially at the federal coverage level, a high pressure situation at all times.

Several other media outlets hopped on the bandwagon, not checking their facts and reporting the same news as CNN and Fox, without giving those two networks proper attribution.

In my business, that's a big no-no.

Because of our current internet technology, information can be distributed within seconds to billions of people. That's why it's more important now, than ever, that we make sure we are right.

Maybe we won't be first, but we will try our best to be accurate.

This is my charge to all of my colleagues and media friends, don't let the rush of being first, outweigh your responsibility to the American people to be accurate, and efficient.

With that said, I can't imagine the pressure on the producers and media professionals waiting for the decision inside the press room at the Supreme Court.

What a crazy day for some.


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