Journalists who are assigned the task of covering hard news events have a difficult task at hand when they cover stories that involve murders, shootings and rape.
When covering a tough situation like this, it is important as a journalist to not let your emotions get the better of you. You want to first and foremost get all the facts straight when it comes to a story of a heinous crime because if you get any of those facts wrong in a story like that, you will lose a lot of credibility as a journalist going forward.
You want to be respectful of the people directly involved with the situation such as family members and close friends. While it is our job as a journalist to get as close to a story as possible and get all the facts, we also must understand that what these people before us have gone through and they may not want to share anything with the media.
Such was the case after the gruesome and horrific shootings that took place in Newtown, Connecticut in December of 2012. In this case 20 children between the ages of 6-7 were fatally shot while at school. During the aftermath, a swarm of media members entered the Newtown area and tried to get all the accurate information of what happened from the people of the town.
As the media continued to cover this tragedy, others started to raise the question. When does media coverage cross the line and become intrusive? Yes we have an obligation to report on a story and get information from sources, but we should not do it at the expense of a grieving loved one.
Another challenge that journalists face today is the pressure to get information out as quickly as possible and while it is our job as reporters to get the facts out to the public fast, this also means crucial errors in fact checking are made with such pressure to release information the second you obtain that information.
When a crisis happens, such as the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, we all want to know what happened; who did it and who all was affected. In efforts to please the general public there were several errors in reporting that were made during that time. These errors, which are then reported by the national news, may end up wasting the time and effort of law enforcement and worse, the false news spreads like wildfire and ends up creates rumors that are most certainly untrue.
The pressure of being the first to report a story has greatly impacted the way news, especially crime stories, are covered by the media. Nowadays you are also are not competing with just other journalists, you are competing with everyone who has a cell phone in their hand and access to the internet. You want to get that information out there fast because it would not look good for you or your news station if a citizen posts a picture or overhears a conversation and reports what you were supposed to.
Yes it is important to try to talk with as many people directly involved with the situation as possible, but you must also remember to keep a respectful distance so you do not upset any potential sources. You must also balance getting news out to the public quickly while making sure that information is correct, you owe it to the public as a reporter to report truthful information.