Exploding Reporting Procedures

KCTV image of a fire on the Kansas City Plaza at J.J.’s Restuarant

One of the greatest changes in the way news is reported in the twentieth century is the 24-hour news cycle. Due to the growth of round-the-clock cable news channels, such as CNN, every hour is a news hour. The Internet has also helped promulgate this “journalism of assertion” through Twitter feeds, which often flood users with information even before the television crews can obtain it. The problem with this scenario is that very little of this information is cross-checked or verified before being released to the public, resulting in a high number of errors. The self-verification of facts that proponents of quick-release journalism cite as a rectifying action places undue work on the reader. A consumer of news should not have to follow a story for days in order to check the veracity of published material; it should be published correctly the first time.

Yesterday, there was a gas main explosion in Kansas City on the Plaza at J.J.’s Restaurant. I happened to see the breaking report while in the KFC. The original report listed a different restaurant (which I cannot recall the name of) as having the explosion, while later broadcasts corrected the name to J.J.’s. However, in the few minutes between these two events, I had already texted my roommate who is from Kansas City. His mother works at a restaurant on the Plaza. Because of the swift nature of news, I presented my roommate with false information; the television station made the explosion seem much larger than it really was. Some stations said that residents had smelled natural gas an hour before the explosion, while others said up to five hours. If the news station had verified the information before releasing it and had more accurately described the explosion as being contained to one business, my roommate would have been far less worried when he called his mom. Instead, bowing to sensationalism, the information was warped and distorted as it was passed down the line. The journalism of assertion naturally lends itself to such misinformation because of its rapid nature.

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