The Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: Active Shooter Edition

Friday, August 01, 2014


Breaking News Consumer's Handbook, Active Shooter Edition (On the Media/WNYC)

In September of 2013 we created a list of best practices that will help you, the media consumer, weed out bad information reported by the media in the wake of mass shootings. Why? Because the news after such events is invariably wrong in key respects.

You can see our print version of the Breaking News Consumer's Handbook by following this link, or you can print it out as a PDF the next time there's a breaking news event.

This week's shooting at the DC Navy Yard was the latest in a long string of breaking news reporting to get many of the essential facts wrong. 

In fact, the rampant misreporting that follows shootings like this is so predictable that OTM has unintentionally developed a formula for covering them. We look at how all the bad information came out. We suggest ways that the news media could better report breaking news. This time, we're doing something different.

This is our Breaking News Consumer's Handbook.  Rather than counting on news outlets to get it right, we're looking at the other end. Below are some tips for how, in the wake of a big, tragic story, you can sort good information from bad. We've even made a handy, printable PDF that you can tape to your wall the next time you encounter a big news event.



Andy Carvin, Ian Fisher and Craig Silverman

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [5]

Since most of the story concerned incidents of murder, it would have been a great opportunity to mention the handbook commissioned by the anti-gun crowd:

It advises proponents to not wait for facts (or worry about any sensibilities) but instead get out in front of the camera as quick as possible while emotions are high and lament about the sad state of restrictions and regulations. It's one thing for a news organization trying to be first and sending out erroneous information. It's quite another to give airtime to political operatives in order to take advantage of a tragic and emotional situation strictly for the purpose of political gain.

Aug. 03 2014 07:46 PM
reporter from round lake, il

OTM is crying crocodile tears about state of US media reporting as it also often misinforms its listeners (example how it covered Kickstarter last year despite evidence that it censors and manipulates contents being listed). NPR is a de-facto commercial organization as it competes with ratings and falling revenue (its "new and improved" CEO stated as much with WPR interview that the trend is to further dumb down the coverage and to make it more "light and accessible.")In this case the efforts of its new CEO will be on..............fundraising and it resulted in 8 CEOs in the past 8 years. OTM's almost fanatical focus on "monetizing the industry" as well as its internal politics and purely technical aspects without any deeper big picture and in-depth analysis lead to conclusion that it is a some type factional player with a hidden agenda and not presenting the US news structure for what it is: scheme run by commercial conmen while dispensing its products to chumps who think that by participating get themselves more educated and well rounded. As for "quality" of public media I suggest listeners tune in to other countries' public broadcasters and see the quality for themselves. Difference between night and day.

Aug. 03 2014 01:16 PM
Stacy Young

The Daily Show made a "generic story" for all "breaking news" tragedy. Sad but true --

Aug. 03 2014 10:18 AM
Douglas from El Paso

Among the first responders to breaking news are television anchors who speculate for several hours, keeping viewers glued to the screen and exposed to advertising.

Aug. 02 2014 10:36 AM
Jim Saling from Seattle, Washington

I lived in Tucson when Gabby Giffords, among others, were shot. KUAZ in Tucson is not a very large operation but they had people on the ground. When NPR News started to report that Giffords was among the dead, the KUAZ team jumped on the air and made it clear that they were in contact with their sources at the hospital and police departments and they were told that Giffords was alive and in surgery. It seems like NPR News could have tried to use their local resources (KJZZ in Phoenix is NOT local to Tucson)to get the facts and avoided the terrible error.

Aug. 01 2014 07:37 PM

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