Wrong information gets reported all the time. Whether its two numbers that get transposed or the wrong person’s name is used, journalists sometimes get it wrong and we are all fine in the end. Mistakes are bound to happen and we have to get over that, but what happens when journalists and news organizations don’t make a conscious effort to report on correct information?
Unfortunately when news organizations or journalists have an agenda they can report on pretty much whatever they want and people are going to believe not matter who is taken down in their wake. Throw in a couple of anonymous sources or a friend of a friend and the story will spread like wildfire. People are supposed to be able to trust journalists, why wouldn’t they trust what was on the front page of a newspaper?
There have been numerous examples (a few involving The Drudge Report) of incorrectly reported stories dealing with public or political figures. Among the stories include examples dealing with former President Bill Clinton, John Kerry and Shirley Sharrod. Not only were these stories covered by low-bar publications, like The Sun, but they were also picked up by mainstream outlets like CNN. What does it say when someone on CNN is referencing The Drudge Report as a source when Drudge rarely does any original reporting, when he does, frequently gets it wrong.
The example with Kerry stands out particularly because it accused Kerry of having an affair with one of his interns. The intern was named in the story, and supposedly her father was quoted. The story broke in England, but was then circulated in the U.S. What I don’t understand is how there wasn’t any journalists in the U.S. who had the thought to try and contact the former intern. It’s not like this story happened in 1990 when the Internet was in its early stages and not everyone’s every move was documented on Facebook and Twitter. There should have been at least one mainstream outlet who could have tried to contact the girl and confirm the story, even if it was just to get more dirty details from her.
Instead, she had to come forward and refute all the crazy claims that had been made about her and Kerry. According to the article in The Guardian, she thought the story would have died because the story was completely false. In this day and age there is no reason for these completely false, hurtful stories to get circulated because someone should have the brains to actually factcheck the information that is going out to the public.