The Media Bait-and-Switch

With recent events like the Sandy Hook Massacre and Christopher Dorner’s murderous rampage, it has become difficult for us to ignore the news that surrounds us — the immediate, flawed news. In a society that is so driven by the need for immediate gratification and social media, it has become evident that the way our news is reported must change with the times. The question is, what are we compromising in the process of getting immediate news coverage?

Trying to accommodate the masses and keep afloat in an age of fiscal crisis, news sources have moved from the daily newspaper to the instantaneous tweets. 24-hour news sources pray for a catastrophe to give us the blow-by-blow, and in the meantime, trivial news of celebrity gossip fill in the gaps. When one of these large newsworthy events hits, however, we’re not quite convinced that the proper approach is being taken.

Within the frenzy of reports from every direction, the main concern of the reporters in the moment is getting the scoop. They often seem to throw journalistic integrity to the wind, and rush to report what they hear as they hear it — they’re not checking the facts.

He’s in Big Bear — (Retraction: Authorities have not identified his whereabouts). Twelve are dead — (Retraction: 32 shots have been fired, no fatalities have been reported).

Did you realize last week as you and your friends were talking about the developments in the Christopher Dorner search that everybody was on different pages with their information? We did, too!

Hiding behind the veil of immediate news coverage, these “journalists” (which we skeptically accept as titles for these reporters) bring the news to the masses and simply retract their statements as soon as more reliable evidence comes to light. But is this how we want our news to be reported? A giant game of telephone, where information is misconstrued along the way?

We as journalists realize that the masses depend on us to bring you the information — we are your link to the outside world. And we take our jobs seriously. We research, we interview, we fact-check throughout the process of putting together any article, big or small. And we don’t take shortcuts because we know the ramifications that misinformation carries with it.

The problem is that other “journalists” do not seem to be doing the same. There are inherent problems and legitimate concerns that come with this form of immediate reporting — convenient coverage. Rather than bring knowledge to the public, and spread awareness about safety, this sort of coverage has fear and panic following it. Communities break into hysteria, fearing the worst, and sick individuals see these opportunities to begin mimicking crime and violence reported on the news.

So does this really help us? We certainly don’t believe so. Rather than helping authorities bring about justice, there is merely an amplification of problems.

With the evolution of our culture and the immediacy that social media provides, we must decide whether or not we compromise the integrity of our news for the sake of instant gratification.

By holding news sources accountable for their reporting, we can keep real journalism alive, but we must also hold ourselves accountable for creating the conditions where this bait-and-switch journalism is permissible.

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