Yesterday some in the media reporting on the Supreme Court – in the first few seconds after the release of the Supreme Court decision – got the decision wrong. Within very, very short order (minutes), everyone – yes, EVERYONE – corrected it. The mistake was over!
And today? What a bunch of silly hand wringing and finger pointing by some because of this brief and quickly corrected mistake!
Some in the media got it wrong for just a few minutes and that is not ideal….but, besides it being just minutes, did any one die? No.
Did this brief mistake change the course of history? No.
Did this brief mistake cause anyone to make a particular irreversible life threatening decision? No.
Did the brief mistake irreversibly alter the nation’s view of journalists and the media or of the profession? No — Americans either already hate us or they love us or something in between. Americans are not so fragile that a brief mistake by some in the media is going to have a lasting impression on them. Frankly, my guess is that Americans today have more attention on their health than the few minutes of mistake about which some hand wring today.
You should ask yourself, what DID happen happen besides some egg on some faces? It was swiftly corrected (and even noted that a mistake had been made.)
Not only was it corrected within minutes….the correct information was repeated over and over and over again what the Supreme decided and we are still reporting what the Supreme Court decided more than 24 hours later….and you can expect it to go into the weekend and into next week.
So exactly what is with all the hand wringing over a stupid fleeting mistake?
Of course everyone in the media wants to get it right all the time and that is our goal — but the hand wringing by some over this mistake, and the level of criticism by some for the mistake, is a tad bit over the top.
A mistake is measured, in large part, by how quickly you fix it and whether there was damage. The first answer it was fixed FAST. The second answer: ZERO DAMAGE. At most, it was embarrassing because we all want to get it right at the start.
The only thing more bizarre than the current handwringing by some over this fleeting error is the thought that some news organizations or journalisms schools may convene panels or committees to discuss it and how it happened. That would REALLY be silly. Even internal investigating or writing a memo about it border on silly. We all know how it happened without any further thought or discussion – everyone was eager to get the news to the people and, after reading pages one and two, and ‘jumped the gun.’ There is nothing more to it.
OK, yes, we in the media can do better….should do better…and, believe it or not, we want to do better.
PS One thing about mistakes like this, it does make one work harder next time. No one wants to do it twice.