It’s all well and good to try to be first with breaking news, but there are a few news organizations that today are likely reviewing their procedures on reporting—as in, don’t go on the air with a Supreme Court ruling until you understand what it says. CNN, Fox News, and NPR all got it wrong in the first moments after the ruling was read in court, each reporting that the justices had essentially rejected the Affordable Care Act. It took Wolf Blitzer on CNN and Bill Hemmer at FoxNews a few flustered minutes to make corrections—once they got their facts straight. A listener said NPR made “numerous” on-air apologies.
President Obama, watching CNN at the White House, was among those who heard the erroneous report, according to Jake Tapper of ABC News. “Senior administration officials say the president was calm,” wrote Tapper on his blog.
Hey, even though these kinds of media mistakes shouldn’t happen, we know they can—and do—in an environment in which the pressure to be first can obscure the mandate to be accurate. When Blitzer called on his CNN colleagues to take “a deep breath,” he was speaking some common sense. But it is CNN that crows it wants to be the network viewers come to when major news is breaking!
No surprise, the very public gaffes prompted heavy media schadenfreude and a Twitter frenzy. Herewith, a random sampling: