One of the frustrations of a newspaper journalist (see Karen Peterson’s column) is the fact that so many people think they get more news from television than newspapers.
It just ain’t so. Even if they never read a newspaper website, many of the stories they see on the air originated in newspapers, which also can provide far more background information. Not to badmouth television; good stations do break stories, but few of them field as many journalists as their print competition.
Manjoo, below, makes the same point about fast-food Web reports. Twitter, Facebook and other new media that emit information constantly and immediately (and without context) is going to get a lot wrong. That’s just the nature of the beast. Newspapers get things wrong, too – check out the New York Post’s coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings – but the serious ones have a longstanding habit of fact-checking, which keeps most of the big bloopers out.
Manjoo makes an important point below: It takes actual time to get a coherent, accurate fix on a developing story. Media that must blast out “updates” from moment to moment are going to get a lot wrong. Again, the nature of the beast.
I’ve got an obvious self-interest going on here, but it’s still a fact: Real news in this country still largely originates in newspapers.
Breaking News Is Broken
By Farhad Manjoo, Slate.
PALO ALTO, Calif. — Inspired by the events of the past week, here’s a handy guide for anyone looking to figure out what exactly is going during a breaking news event. When you first hear about a big story in progress, run to your television. Make sure it’s securely turned off.
Next, pull out your phone, delete your Twitter app, shut off your email, and perhaps cancel your service plan. Unplug your PC.
Now go outside and take a walk for an hour or two. Maybe find a park and sit on a bench, reading an old novel. Winter is just half a year away — have you started cleaning out your rain gutters? This might be a good time to start. Whatever you do, remember to stay hydrated. Have a sensible dinner. Get a good night’s rest. In the morning, don’t rush out of bed. Take in the birdsong. Brew a pot of coffee.
Finally, load up your favorite newspaper’s home page. Spend about 10 minutes reading a couple of in-depth news stories about the events of the day. And that’s it: You’ve now caught up with all your friends who spent the past day and a half going out of their minds following cable and Twitter. In fact, you’re now better informed than they are, because during your self-imposed exile from the news, you didn’t stumble into the many cul-de-sacs and dark alleys of misinformation that consumed their lives. You’re less frazzled, better rested, and your rain gutters are clear.
Breaking news is broken. That’s the clearest lesson you can draw about the media from the last week, when both old- and new-media outlets fell down on the job. By now you’ve likely heard the lowlights.
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