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In the Media

article imageOp-Ed: Citizens and breaking news changing mainstream journalism

article:281809:7::0
By KJ Mullins
Nov 8, 2009 in World
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When it comes to breaking news sometimes the first reports out are from the citizens on the ground. In the new age of citizen journalism those first reports can give readers key insight to a situation, they can also allow opinions to be spread like fact.
An article on Tech Crunch is citing the latter about the Fort Hood shooting. Tearah Moore, a soldier based at Fort Hood was busy typing away during the action from inside one of the hospitals where victims were taken. While the minute to minute play did give some information, Moore's own opinion rang out clearly.
Tech Crunch is faulting bloggers and main stream media for using this information in their initial reports. Moore was more than happy to give out her phone number to the media to give them the "real" information. Sadly the information she was giving out was not the truth. The media worked into a spider web and got bit yet again.
It is easy to point the finger at citizen journalism as was the case in the Tech Crunch article, but in this case it wasn't a citizen journalist who was spewing the falsehoods as news. Moore did not represent herself as a journalist, merely a military person on the scene. To demean citizen journalism because of someone who isn't claiming to be in that category is in itself false reporting. It is true that some bloggers used false information on their reports but then again so did the mainstream media.
During a major breaking news story it is easy to get caught up in the heat of the event, wanting to get eye witness accounts. The trick is to know which accounts are viable and which are merely gossip.
In the Fort Hood case information changed rapidly as the hour following the initial attack wore on. The military reported that the gunman was dead. That report we now know was false. Those who were reporting responsibly added to their reports that the information was yet to be confirmed.
Confirmation is the key when it comes to these stories. While short jabs during breaking news events may seem to not say much they are a way for reporters not to topple the apple cart. It's best to give confirmed information than to make a mistake.
As I was reporting the events on Thursday I struggled with unconfirmed reports. At the time it was thought that the alleged gunman Major Hasan had been shot and killed during the aftermath of the attack. That information was confirmed by a United States Senator on CNN. We now know that was a false report. Was I wrong for reporting it? In this case I don't believe so, as it was confirmed by those who were within the government saying it was the truth.
The Columbia Journalism Review wrote about the use of Twitter during the event. Journalists had the task of picking out the pieces from Twitter feeds that were viable and tossing others.
Times reporter Michael Luo says of the situation: “Seeing various Ft Hood locals who were tweeting about shooting being contacted by reporters. Digital form of pack journalism.”
With each breaking news incident the world of journalism changes more. The old school journalists are having to reach out to the voice of those at the scene to get a more in-depth story in a much faster time frame. As the news world evolves with the use of social media networking and citizens calling in more information it will be tricky to decipher what information is viable and what information needs to be tossed into the trash.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
article:281809:7::0
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