The day started out like any other, but it would end with lingering sorrow felt throughout the nation.
The news of a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. came to me in an email alert Friday morning. I immediately pulled up Twitter, searching for information and confirmed reports. It wasn’t usual for me to do this, but I felt like this shooting was different somehow. I felt like the situation was pretty serious. Sadly, it was.
Once I found the Hartford Courant’s Twitter account, I started reading through the tweets. Multiple deaths reported; children among those injured.
FOX CT was running a live broadcast, so I clicked on the live stream and waited for a press briefing on the shooting. Then, The Associated Press reported a horrendous death toll. At least 18 children are dead.
What? Eighteen innocent lives lost? How could this be happening?
This was followed by more troubling news.
Like most of America, I was speechless. There were no words to describe what had just happened. Twenty children had lost their lives at an elementary school, and no one knew why.
News continued to spread on social media throughout the day with updates on the shooter and a possible motive. Inaccurate posts also made appearances on Gawker, Buzzfeed and other outlets, defaming the shooter’s older brother.
For the most part, social media has been a force of good for journalism, but it also helped outlets spread false and libelous information Friday. So many inaccuracies. So many mistakes. How can we do better?
Being first is not always best. Being first with confirmed reports from reliable sources is.
We live in a society where people want information right away. And I’m just as guilty as other journalists out there. I use Twitter. I’ve tweeted premature information before. No one is perfect. Not even NPR’s Andy Carvin.
But we must exercise caution when tweeting unconfirmed information in these types of situations.
Today, we need to take some time to look at our coverage from Friday and talk about how to improve it for future coverage of breaking news. What did we do that we shouldn’t have? What can we do that we didn’t? If your reporters interviewed children, did they ask themselves if the interview was in the best interest of the child? All of these are important and necessary questions to ask ourselves.
What did you think of the coverage? How can it improve? Share your thoughts below.
Associated Press Photo by David Goldman