On News and Reporting: Too much, too soon?

As I have been following the tragic events that have played out in the last few days, reading on Twitter and online News sources what is going on, I have been thinking a lot about the purpose of News and how News should be reported.  I have complained before about the downside of the 24-hours News service, being that there is rarely 24 hours worth of news in a day, so these 24-hour News services find themselves repeating and speculating and talking about nothing important or worthwhile, just to fill the time that they have.

That is what I have seen lately.  As soon as one News source believes they have even the least bit of something new, the most remotest connection to anything relevant, they begin to shout about it, causing the other News sources to cite that and report on what others are reporting.  It soon becomes ridiculous.

And I had a thought as I was reading a German News source’s report — The German word for News is Nachrichten, which literally means, when you take a look at that word, After- Judging.  Nachrichten, or News, is the act of judging after the fact.  The first instance we have of the word’s usage comes from the 16th century as “Mitteilung zum danachrichten” or a message to judge after the fact.  That is what I wish our modern News would be again, a judgment made after the facts are all in and have been investigated and understood.

We used to have time for journalists and reporters to gather their sources, check them thoroughly, cross-check and verify and then write the story before it printed in the next day’s paper or aired on the evening news.  But, with the internet and Twitter and CNN everyone wants to be the source that got their first with the latest, breaking-est News.  They seem to report anything that they believe is even slightly interesting as soon as they have it, just so they can have something new to say.  They seem to take the New part of News literally. I have even seen today, some news sources linking to the alleged Twitter profile of one of the suspects, as if that really matters to anyone, as if there is something in his Tweets that is relevant.  And to begin with, we are not even sure if this is the guy who did it, he is still just a suspect, no guilt or culpability has been established yet.

Which is the other problem I have with this rush to report everything now, we have lost the meaning of some of the most basic words in our legal system.  Words such as suspect, which only means the person is suspected of being involved.  But, as soon as one News source starts talking about a suspect, everyone goes crazy as if that suspect had already been condemned.  Do we not still believe in the concept of ‘innocent until proven guilty‘?  I think back on the school shooting at Newtown, when News reporters were talking about the suspect by name, only to actually have had the wrong name.  In their attempt to report News as soon as they could, they did not check their facts and got the most crucial detail wrong.  And because the News had reported his name as being the suspect, he was receiving threats and being harassed as if he were guilty.

So, please, as we enjoy our ever more connected world, let’s please be smart and seek for News of events that have actually happened, that have details and have importance.  Please, let’s report the facts that are pertinent to the event and leave the speculation totally aside.  You are called the News, not the Guesses.

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