Media blitz results in incorrect reports

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A rush to quickly report the Supreme Court’s decision on President Barack Obama’s health care law on Thursday tripped up some news organizations that got it wrong and had to quickly correct themselves.

Both CNN and Fox News Channel initially reported incorrectly that the law’s central provision, requiring virtually all Americans to have health insurance, had been struck down. In an apology, CNN said it “regrets that it didn’t wait to report out the full and complete opinion regarding the mandate.”

The Associated Press and other news organizations and broadcast television outlets got it right generally.

A minute after the AP flash alert at 10:07 a.m., The New York Times asked its readers for time, with Washington bureau chief David Leonhardt posting that reporters and editors were analyzing the decision.

Hundreds of thousands of people followed www.scotus, a Bloomberg site known in the industry for its reporting prowess on all matters pertaining to the Supreme Court.

And even that site was hesitant, at first, to say anything with absolute certainty until enough time passed to see the court’s 193-page opinion.

“I think there is so much competition and there’s so much pressure to be first that news organizations are not taking the time to make sure they are accurate,” said Tracy Everbach, associate professor of journalism at the University of North Texas Frank W. and Sue Mayborn School of Journalism.

“I think it just points out the need for news organizations to be what they are supposed to be — accurate and truthful — even if that means not being first.”

Everbach said she believed such situations of inaccurate reporting could cause people to lose faith in the ability of news organizations to tell the truth.

“It’s just a climate where everyone feels like they have to jump on something right away and they aren’t taking the time to be right — and being right is a cornerstone of journalism,” she said.

Samra Bufkins, lecturer on strategic communications at the Mayborn School of Journalism, said watching the day’s event roll out via social media and traditional media was interesting.

With many focused — at least for a short time — on the Supreme Court’s decision, the day’s news was the talk of the country, Bufkins said.

“Who knew today would be the day that Twitter would be more reliable than CNN?” Bufkins said.

— Staff and wire reports


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