Being First Versus Being Right

If you haven't seen the latest fiasco in the media quest for expediency over accuracy, Dave Statter has been sharing it here.  I understand it but I don't agree with it.  There is a lot of pressure in reporting to be the first one out of the blocks, thus one of the primary reasons Firehouse Zen doesn't compete with such worthy emergency service news blogs like Dave's, or FireGeezer, or Fire Daily.  First off, it is a lot of work, and I already have a lot of work.  This is supposed to be an endeavor of discovery for me, not a race.  Secondly, I have a need to research things deeply and sometimes I get bogged down in that research, and that's more about what this post discusses.

I'm in the middle of completing another degree through Columbia Southern University, as some of you know.  While I just said that, I'm not getting paid to do so.  I'm pretty sure given what I am about to say they wouldn't necessarily want me as a shill.  But I digress; I have really enjoyed the classes so far and the work I am doing has been pertinent so far.  But go back to what I said earlier and here's the catch; I get sidetracked.

I'm not a very good reporter, as you can see.  I see a tangent and I take it.  My educational record is riddled with these side roads into oblivion.  I start reading something about, in the most recent case, Zachary Taylor's campaigns in the Mexican-American War, and the next thing you know I have signed up on a listserv for Military History e-mails on World War II.  The internet is a horrible, horrible thing – all those embedded links just serve as a detour for me and cause me to peek through another door, only to find myself discussing subject matter that had nothing to do at all with where I began.

But lest you think I have done the very same thing here (remember, we started off with a discussion on media accuracy), I also have a talent for turning what I learned about something else into useful information and bringing it back around.  Like here, where I tell you that while this trait (distractedness) is not entirely good, it isn't entirely bad either.  Why?  Well, because it allows you to examine the entire argument.

There is a sincere need in reporting to get the whole story.  And while this prank in San Francisco is horribly wrong, it really is a pretty fluky thing, when you consider a media outlet has to get it right, balance it with their message, vet it, and distribute it.  Information is just information prior to analysis; after analysis it becomes intelligence.  The problem is that in the haste to be first, there is a conflict in that anyone telling a story needs to confirm accuracy, and sometimes that process goes out the window.  That, my friends, is the subtle difference between "reporting" and "rumormongering" (Is that a verb? If not, I just made it one). 

Any idiot who can read a teleprompter can "report" these days.  Anybody can find a source, quote their side of the story, and present it as news.  Just turn on Fox News or MSNBC to see what I mean.  This isn't news, this is opinion and in some cases, badly reasoned opinion on top of it.  There is not an emphasis on the people who report the news actually knowing what the news is and frankly, they can get away with it because an overwhelming majority of the viewers (because nobody reads anymore, what are you, a dork?) don't bother to understand the facts either.  They take what piss-poor bullet point was made by the talking heads and treat it as Gospel.

There isn't a desire to understand the background or appreciate the perspectives.  When we wonder why there is so much divisiveness and rudeness in the world, it is clearly because we fail to comprehend that there is more to the story.  We are in such a hurry to get it first that sometimes we fail to get it right (didn't I tell you we'd be back here?).

Break out from the norm.  Leadership isn't easy.  If it were, everyone would be doing it.  Consider the perspectives.  Read into the story.  Seek out opposing viewpoints.  Clarify your own understanding of the problems.  But to parrot what anyone tells us and accept it as truth doesn't facilitate learning.  It proves you can read a prepared statement from someone whose agenda it is to convince you that their story is the one that matters.  Hell, for all you know, I may even be full of shit.  Resist the urge to march in lockstep and develop your own perspective, remembering that you only see it from one side and there are many you can't see yet.  Sometimes it's okay to take a different path, but make sure it is the path that actually gets you where you want to be.  


  • DStatter says:

    The only thing I probably don’t agree with you on is that it was a fluke. There has been a clear pattern in recent years of news organizations getting the significant facts of major breaking news stories story dead wrong, This just happens to be the most outlandish and we will remember it because it is so comical.
    You are correct about faling to understand and convey the nuances of a story and TV news has always had a tough time doing that. But it is the basics right now, confirming information BEFORE airing, that is completely undermining any credibility they had.

    • Mick Mayers says:

      Tried to reply three times earlier and dumped by Disqus three times. Now I’m home so let me see if it works. I agree and I think “fluke” wasn’t exactly where I was going; meant it more like a perfect storm of idiotic proportions. I mean who ever would have believed someone could make up names as obvious as those and it could get past a reporter, a production assistant, the chyron operator, the producer, the news director, and the anchor? Not me, that’s for sure. And yeah, if it gets past all of that, your credibility is suspect. Thanks, as always, for commenting. I am humbled that you read my tiny little blog. ๐Ÿ˜‰


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