As technology becomes more advanced over the years, the demand for instant news increases. There is an expectation that the media will be at live at the story, covering every aspect the audience needs to know. With these expectations comes a lot of competition between media outlets.
The rush to get information out often leads reporters to post things without a second set of eyes looking over it. Poynter's article, "Crime Coverage Now Requires Constantly 'Feeding the Beast'" says, "as a result, typos, factual errors and single-source stories are proliferating."
Stations no longer hold information anymore because they want to be the first with the story. Due to this, credibility and reputations can be damaged; but not just the reputations of the news stations.
In 1996 at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, a bomb exploded in the area. Richard Jewell was simply an ordinary security guard at the games. In doing his job, he spotted a suspicious looking book bag and asked everyone to clear the area for safety purposes. As it turned out, there was in fact a bomb inside that book bag and because he evacuated the area the casualties were much fewer than they would have been.
Due to his actions, Jewell was deemed a hero by the media. After frequently seeing Jewell represented as a hero on television, the FBI began to wonder if he had planted the bomb in hopes of evacuating people to become a local hero. The moment this theory was leaked to the press, the once seen hero suddenly became the prey of the press.
After finally being cleared of suspicion, Jewell held a press conference. To the media, he said, "In its rush for the headline, that the hero was the bomber, the media cared nothing for my feelings as a human being."
Video Courtesy of the AP Archive
Jewell was just an ordinary person that was thrust into the spotlight during a tragic situation of misinterpretation by the FBI and the media.
As a student studying journalism, it is important to know how to handle reporting tragic situations while finding a way to minimize harm. In the midst of a tragedy, reporters must pester the people who went through it. It can be extremely difficult to do so while people are trying to mourn.
A reporter from the station I interned at in Columbus had some good advice for how she handles those types of stories. She said that she will knock on someone's door, ask him or her for information one time, and if they refuse, she will kindly respect that and leave them alone.
Her advice really stuck with me because though we as journalists have a job to get all the information, sometimes it is just not possible. We as humans need to be courteous of other people in their time of mourning.