News media's bogey

Posted on 09. Dec, 2009 by in Rebecca Leung

Historians will call 2009 a watershed year for news media.

It will be the year a website beat the media titans on the death of the world’s biggest star and then forced them to care about how many mistresses a golf champion has been fooling around with.

It will be the year TMZ.com gained credibility and CNN lost respect.

Once-reputable journalists have become comfortable citing gossip sites and entertainment magazines. In the vein of that trend, I will attribute my point to comedian John Stewart:

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In the wake of TMZ’s scoop on Michael Jackson’s death, CNN’s leadership, and many other major news outlets, patted themselves on their backs, contending that no one believed the star was dead until CNN confirmed it – hours later. TMZ isn’t our competition, they said. Accuracy is our top priority. Not speed.

Really?

As I sat in the living room with my family the day after Thanksgiving, my cousin got a news alert on his cell phone about Tiger Woods’ car accident. We turned on CNN.

The anchor reported that Tiger Woods was in the hospital in serious condition. An hour or so later, the news changed. The golf star hadn’t been in serious condition, but his injuries were serious. By that evening, the injuries were minor – like the news should have been.

We all know where the tortuous story goes from there.

I don’t mean to suggest that the Tiger Woods story isn’t news.  I understand he’s a celebrity athlete whose squeaky-clean image has been shattered with a golf club.

But when 1010 WINS’ 22-minute morning newscast includes a story about a voicemail message from an athlete to his mistress, attributed to Us Weekly magazine, there needs to be some introspection.

Media companies can’t claim to be better than TMZ and then use the site to support their reporting. They also can’t win the celebrity news game while following the rules of reputable journalism.

So CNN and all the other big media companies that have been engaging speculation and gossip surrounding the Tiger Woods story have to pick a side: Start paying your sources or hang up the golf club.

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One Response to “News media's bogey”

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    09. Sep, 2010

    Okay CNN – Which side are you going to take?