The Cape Cod Times of Hyannis (Mass.), July 5, 2012
One of the challenges of the 24-hour news cycle is that you need to constantly refresh your supply of news. The fear is that your audience will emigrate elsewhere if you are simply recycling past events, where ‘‘past’’ now means anything more than a couple minutes old. This development has left some news outlets breaking one of the basic rules of good journalism: Getting it right is more important than getting it first.
And it is not just the smaller-staffed organizations that are struggling with this. Late last week, as the Supreme Court released its long-awaited decision on the Affordable Care Act, several news outlets, including Fox and CNN, initially reported that the individual mandate aspect of the act had been overturned. They quickly recanted their announcements, but not before several jubilant Republican lawmakers began to tweet about the supposed defeat.
In this case, the newsgroups managed to correct their error quickly, although it did take CNN six minutes to get it right, an eternity in today’s news cycle. Other, less visible stories have lingered on the fringes of public awareness for days or even weeks before the facts have surfaced.
Take for example last month’s news that the Environmental Protection Agency was using unpiloted drones, similar to the ones being used by the military along the Pakistani border, here in this country. According to more than one report, the EPA was using the unmanned planes to scan the vast farmlands of Montana to ensure that ranchers were complying with the Clean Water Act. The reaction was swift and angry, with a handful of websites picking up the story before it eventually made its way to Fox News.
The Comedy Central fake news program, ‘‘The Daily Show,’’ picked up the Fox clip, with host Jon Stewart mocking the fact that Fox host Megyn Kelly had drawn a parallel between these presumably unarmed drones and the armed ones to hunt suspected terrorists. Congressmen began to pontificate on the latest example of the government intruding into the privacy of others, and the story eventually wound up on the desk of U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont, who promptly called the EPA and demanded an end to the practice.
There was only one small issue with the story; it was patently untrue, as anyone along the way could have easily discovered if they had simply put in a call to the EPA.
Ironically, The Daily Show, which makes a habit of mocking Fox News, inadvertently legitimized and spread the range of the story by poking fun at it. That fact, more than anything else, reveals the danger of a news cycle that prompts reporters, as well as audiences, to believe what they see and hear without ever questioning whether it is true.
Audiences, whether they are hearing, seeing, or reading the news as it unfolds, deserve better. They deserve to have those who report the news holding their sources to the highest standards so that the clear, unvarnished truth is revealed. Even if it takes a few extra minutes, it is most assuredly time well spent.
The Hartford (Conn.) Courant, July 3, 2012
The small, silvery river herring is unlikely to be on anyone’s ‘‘favorite fish’’ list. But river herring are important to Connecticut’s ecosystem; they are eaten by ospreys, otters, cormorants, and fish such as striped bass and bluefish. That’s why for several years it has been illegal to catch river herring in any Connecticut waters, including Long Island Sound.
Despite the ban, and other state actions designed to increase the birth rate, the number of river herrings continues to diminish. According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the count of river herrings is one-fifth what it was as recently as 1996, and in Connecticut, one variety of the fish is officially ‘‘depleted.’’ More needs to be done to make sure the population isn’t further reduced.
A substantial threat to our state’s river herring population exists many miles from Connecticut, in the Atlantic Ocean: commercial herring trawlers. The giant trawlers are actually after Atlantic herring — a separate species — but the boats’ huge nets, some as large as a football field, scoop up everything in their path, including seals, dolphins and tuna. Despite their name, river herrings spend most of their life in saltwater, returning to rivers only to spawn, and they frequently are found with Atlantic herring. They are often caught up in the nets.
Federal regulations cap the number of Atlantic herring these trawlers may collect, but no such cap exists for river herring. The New England Fishery Management Council, at its recent meeting in Maine, voted in favor of a river herring cap and a requirement that federal observers, paid for by the commercial fishers, be on each trawler to monitor the catch.Continued...