Breaking news today is not what it used to be. Back before the modern-era of Facebook, Twitter, smartphones and the internet, news was spread via special edition updates on network television/radio or "Extra" newspaper prints.
Media outlets essentially had two or three ways of reporting stories, meaning there was little to no room for error. When mistakes were made, consequences occured, reporters lost jobs, news companies lost money.
Inside the newsroom, things were different too. Aside from the reporter, there were fact checkers, copy writers, page editors, all of whom read stories and approved pieces before going to print or on-air.
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People took pride in their work and expected it to be 100 percent accurate.
When technology changes and advanced, so did the newsroom. No longer are media agencies hiring fact checkers, or even copy editors depending on where you go. Editorial staffs are shrinking because papers are shrinking. In New Jersey alone, several newspapers, including Gannett's Daily Record, have shrunk from a major news source to a copy-and-paste system based out of The Asbury Park Press offices in Neptune.
With the advancement of social media, including Twitter and Facebook, what was once a career based on pride and accuracy, has changed to become like "The Amazing Race," where if your last in reaching a specific check point, you risk being eliminated from the competition of breaking news reporting.
The question is: where did the break in the chain occur?
All reporters are taught from day one of Journalism School about the importance of accuracy. Aside from the "five W's" of reporting, your taught journalism ethics. College reporters spend semester after semester learning the right and wrong way of doing things. Scenario by scenario, you're taught how to handle situations from a corrupt town council to photos of a deceased child.
The strange thing is, once you hit the open market, you become compromised by Corporate America to do things differently than what you learn in college.
Whats the point of learning who to effectively report and write a story if it goes by the wayside. Reporters aren't taught to jump on a tidbit of information and blow it up unless its confirmed elsewhere. At Seton Hall University's student newspaper, The Setonian, there is no such thing as an anonymous source or breaking news without solid evidence. Stories aren't posted without 100 percent positivity that the article is accurate and fair.
Why do college reporters have more ethics than a professional paper?
The answer is money and fame. Newspapers would rather be first to say something regardless of its accuracy than write an honest.
Its truly a shame what journalism has come to. Think of the consequences a bad news tip has; its very similar to that of a bad tip on a police hotline. Take the Newtown, Conn. shooting, for example.
CNN, among other outlets, got wind of the name of a potential suspect. They went straight to Facebook, found a picture of the "alleged" killer and posted it on the news and social media. Only problem: they had the wrong first name. Even after the wrong person posted that they are in New Jersey working and not in Connecticut, word still spread. Now what happens? One more person's life is ruined.
As times continue to change, its guarenteed that journalism will as well. Newspapers will continue to shrink, social media will progress and money will rule the world, but can't reporters take hold of the issue and go back to fair, unbiased, sourced reporting?
Everyone has those roots. It doesn't matter if you went to Syracuse, Missouri or Seton Hall, colleges are teaching traditional ethics, the right thing and are held to that standard. Shouldn't professionals be held to the same standard?
No. They should be held to a higher one.
Tim LeCras is the Sports Editor for The Alternative Press. He graduated from Seton Hall University in May 2012 with a degree in Public Relations and Journalism. While at the Hall, he was an editor at the Setonian for three years, winning multiple NJPA awards during his tenure. Outside of print journalism, Tim is an accomplished sports broadcaster. He spent four years covering Seton Hall athletics, including trips to the Big East and NIT tournaments. Tim is an avid baseball player and a scratch golfer. He also enjoys attending amusement parks and riding roller coasters with his family. Contact Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org