The Boston mystery has been solved. Police were searching for a “dark skinned male” last week until, after a few days, they identified him: Zooey Deschanel. That’s what you learned if you were getting your news on local channel Fox 4 in Dallas. John King from CNN reported the “dark skinned male” part, citing a government official as the source for his description. And in Dallas, a scrolling line below the Dallas anchors announced that Zooey Deschanel, star of the series “The New Girl,” the films “500 Days of Summer,” “Elf,” and other political diatribes, was the bomber. Most likely the source of the Dallas report was spell-check trying to contend with the name Dzokhar Tsarnaev. Or the typist hates “The New Girl.” The mistake leads to an interesting question: how many people in Dallas said, “no way,” and how many said, “really?”
The Capitalist spirit has always had its grip on the news. Ever since Thomas Dewey became the US president in 1948, the various news outlets have been locked in dead serious, drive-over-your-dog rush to get information out first. Those old practices of confirming reports and looking for more credible sources have gone the way of rotary phones. Those things take time, and now reporters compete not only with each other, but with bloggers who have no fact-check systems or requirements. In “The Newsroom,” Jeff Daniels’ character was holding off on releasing unconfirmed information on a television news show, and a studio executive played by Chris Messina yelled at him, “Every second you’re not current, a thousand people are changing the channel.”
This past June, both Fox News and CNN reported that the Supreme Court struck down the Affordable Health Care Act, a law which the media is delighted to refer to as “Obamacare.” Both news outlets admitted they had read only half the opinion, and Justice Roberts-Shyamalan threw in a twist ending that had them juked.
The Washington Post published an article a few days ago with the headline, “Mistakes in News Reporting Happen, but Do They Matter?” The thrust of the article is that in the new media age, mistakes are forgiven, as if there’s an understanding that such mistakes will occur. Retractions are quick and painless. Each of us may feel that one or the other of these networks is perfectly comfortable reporting erroneous information (cough cough Fox cough), but these reports have consequences. There are people with serious illnesses they can’t afford to treat who were watching the Supreme Court closely, and at least at midday, the news could not have been worse.
Should news outlets somehow be above the demands of capitalism? PBS news outlets don’t exactly threaten the Murdoch empire, and NPR is seemingly always threatened with defunding, seriously jeopardizing that organization. Should we allow capitalism to continue to let the cream rise to the top? Do you think Fox news is the cream?
Director Tony Scott jumped off a bridge to his death in August, 2012. According to published reports, he was despondent over a diagnosis of inoperable and terminal brain cancer. His family was shocked not only by his death, but by the reason for his suicide, since he didn’t have cancer, a fact confirmed by Los Angeles coroners and any health care professional who happened to treat him. As far as we know, he was never under the impression he had cancer: the cancer existed only in the news report.