The Free Press Is A Great Idea… Except…

A free press is a magnificent thing, but sometimes, I worry that the we (I can say being a member of said community – yes, I am.) might get in our own way sometimes. Picture this scenario. I can see it starting like this:

Reporter: Commissioner, Mike Trent Channel X News. Do you have any information about the serial killer loose in our town.

Commissioner: Yes, we have oodles of information. His name is Steve Dallas and he lives at 123 Bloom County Lane. We’ll be raiding his house later today. We’re assembling the Avengers as we speak.

Later that day.

Reporter: He got away Commissioner. Can you explain that?

Commissioner: Yes. We told you all the information we had and he happened to be watching at the time so you gave him a heads up and he was able to escape.

Now, as icing on the cake, I would, in this scenario, love to see the Commissioner arrest the reporter for aiding and abetting in the escape of a serial killer. Of course, this situation was purely fictional. Steve Dallas is a character from the cartoon Bloom County and I don’t think any police force on the planet refers to its own SWAT team as the Avengers. I made it a little silly. But the point still stands.

Does it ever occur to anyone that the need for information now, now now, now, is a little too Veruca Salt for anyone? You don’t need that information now. Later, after the killer has been arrested and the community is a happier and safer place, sure. You can get all the information your little heart desires. But before? As you can see from my silly little scenario, wouldn’t that information getting out be detrimental? Apart from being the killer, is there any scenario in which that information would do anyone any good? I can’t think of one.

Or how’s this? The somewhat recent death of NBA Legend Kobe Bryant was reported in a fairly haphazard way. It began with the report that a helicopter crashed. Then five people died. Yes, just the five. But one of them was Kobe Bryant. Later, it turned out there were nine.

Credibility anyone?

As the day progressed, an otherwise slow Sunday, I kept expecting more changes. It wasn’t nine. It was thirteen. It wasn’t a helicopter, it was an airplane. It wasn’t thirteen in an airplane, it was twenty-seven in a boat. No! thirty-six in a hovercraft. Kobe Bryant? What’s he got to do with this? He’s over there having his picture taken with Ric Ocasek, which I, unlike the Grammy-award people, can spell correctly without even looking it up.

No, unfortunately, they did die. Not that Ric Ocasek was in the helicopter. He’d died some time before that. (At least I hope he wasn’t in there.) Regardless, how hard could it have been to check a passenger manifest before reporting and get it right the first time so credibility can be maintained? Would that have been so hard? It’s not like this was good news. Getting it wrong just makes it worse. Get it right and save everyone a modicum of grief.

The moral of the story is: the news media require patience, Grasshopper. The news will get to you when it needs to get to you, and wouldn’t it be nice if it got there correctly?

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