A tale of two tragedies

As much of the world already knows, there was a horrific mass murder yesterday at an elementary school in Connecticut, with the resulting death of nearly 30 children and adults.  There are simply no adjectives strong enough to describe the senselessness, sadness and viciousness of this tragic crime. 

There are, on the other hand, plenty of words to describe the news reporting of the event, and the quality and believability of news reporting of ALL events.  And this isn’t a comment on any specific broadcast news station, nor any specific online news.  They all fall into the same category of shoddiness, as far as I’m concerned.

The descriptors that I use to describe the news programs yesterday would have included:  incompetent, sloppy, careless, sensationalistic, and too quick-on-the-draw.

At various times in the “reporting” yesterday, we heard there was one shooter, then maybe two, then one shooter with two guns, then it was a 24 year old going after his mother, and then it was his 20 year old brother, and his mother wasn’t even at the school.  I haven’t read the paper yet or looked at any news source this morning, so I don’t know what the final “news” was, but it simply could not have been all of those stories. 

newspaperAnd that’s what the “news” seems to be in today’s age:  stories.  Because there is instant access to whatever is happening in the world, every news program wants to be first with their exclusive version of whatever is going on.  So they talk to a few people, not necessarily the right people, and come up with their view of details and they turn it into news.  And if they are doing round-the-clock “reporting” then they just keep doing that and the “facts” change as they try to find new things to fill the time.  Other news reports hear the first news reports and assume they’re true, so the un-facts keep getting spread around and take on a life of their own.

I’m a real estate agent, and one of the major tenets of our business is that we deal with facts.  If a client wants to know what the taxes are for a specific home, we don’t say, “Oh, all the homes in this area have taxes around $6,000.”  And we don’t say, “I heard the neighbor say it was $6,000.”  Or if they want to know what school district a home is in, we don’t say, “Oh, I assume it’s school district X.”   If we don’t know the answer, we say we don’t know, and we find out by checking with valid sources.  The tax records.  The town hall.  We don’t share hearsay, or assumption, or guesstimates.

Why isn’t the news held to the same standard?  News is supposed to be about reportingReporting validated facts that are checked and rechecked.   Personally, I’d rather wait until something is known to be true before I hear about it.  Did anyone really need to see round-the-clock coverage showing the same pictures of terrified children and heartbroken adults?  Really?  Did we need to see from-on-high pictures of emergency vehicles?  NO!  That’s NOT news.

The news should equate to the facts.  Editorials are where opinions and hearsay and guesses belong.  But let’s start holding news programming to the high standards other businesses are.  It’s simply irresponsible to be making things up, or taking third-person information and using it as truth.  I for one, don’t believe a thing I read or hear anymore until it’s been “reported” on for days by various sources.  Then I can pick the grains of truth out of the fuzzy mush that is currently referred to as news. 

Yesterday’s massacre was a tragedy, the obvious heartbreaking tragedy of the senseless murder of young children and innocent adults.  And while not remotely at the same level of tragedy, the business called “news” has died as well.   The reporting of facts is simply something we will read about in future history books.  Although of course, I won’t believe that either.

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