There was a time when Wednesday's false report of an arrest in the Boston bombings
would have played out much differently...much more quietly. In fact, I have to wonder if there would have been a false report at all if everyone still waited until the morning paper or the 6 p.m. news to find out what was going on.
What disturbed me most about CNN's bungled report
wasn't that they got it wrong, but what people blamed it on.
A number of tweets I saw on the topic seemed to blame the milliseconds-long news cycle our digital world creates for causing this gaffe. If you're not first out of the gate, how can you expect to get the eyeballs on your site that your bottom line so desperately needs to sustain your news operation?
Give me a break.
I believe social media has changed the way reporters and news organizations communicate with the public, and I'm OK with that. But I'm not one of those people who believes the fourth estate should water down basic journalistic principles because the way we communicate has changed.
The goal should always be to do one's best to get it right through diligent research and confirmation from independent sources. A cool head filled with good information and good old common sense should always prevail, no matter how many tweets or Facebook comments or blog posts or screaming editors are hurling toward that head at any given millisecond.
Social media is about authenticity, but it can greatly affect the image people build in their minds of you. For instance, CNN to me is now a laughing stock, because this is the latest in a string of embarrassing gaffes made for the sake of being first out of the gate. They mistakenly reported the Supreme Court struck down the Affordable Care Act. They mistakenly identified the Newtown shooter as Ryan Lanza when it was really his brother, Adam. And now this. A fictional arrest made in the Boston bombings.
But perhaps I'm biased. I was a newspaper reporter, and we always scoffed at those TV people.
If anything, social media reveals people's innate ability to see through a ploy for publicity. People don't care if you're first. They care if you're right. If you're right most of the time, and own up when you're not, then they will be loyal to you.
With that in mind, seems to me CNN's got a big problem.