In times of emergency when the stakes are high and news rooms are eager to release breaking news, most reporters would say it's like walking on a tight rope. For example, take the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina into consideration. A time when the Louisiana natives were in a state of emergency and chaos left with limited options and security.
"When reporting news stories,the first reports are often wrong" says Carl Quintanilla, an Emmy award winning co-anchor for CNBC. The initial reports filed for the Katrina destruction were skewed and loosely related to what actual happened. The reports were "fueled by tired and desperate people", one reporter said. In such an emergency, reporters are likely to fall short to the "It's out there syndrome", which ironically makes journalists feel okay to publish work just because someone already has, rather than each media outlet confirming their own facts and doing their own work.
ABC news Av Western, a former VP and executive producer said " Rather than saying lets wait five-minutes, they just go with it because it’s in front of them".
Searching for the facts should be every journalists top priority when reporting breaking news and a basic tool to follow is the use of persistent questioning of sources. Don't forget to ask:
- how do you know that?
- did you see it?
- who told you this?
- are you 100%?
- who else can confirm this?