Today, the Supreme Court ruled on the controversial ‘Obamacare’ — a 5-4 decision upholding President Obama’s health care overhaul.
As expected, the Internet blew up with reactions to this historic decision. But what was not expected were the initial reports on the story.
As Chief Justice John Roberts began reading his decision, the CNN team inside the courtroom jumped the gun. The way Roberts phrased his opening statement, they thought he was announcing the individual mandate would be overturned.
Running with that notion, they inaccurately reported that it had been overturned — on air, on Twitter and via text alert and email.
As correct reports began surfacing, everyone seemed confused. What was it? Was it overturned or upheld? Who is right, and who is wrong?
After the hullabaloo died down, everyone started reacting to the erroneous reports, including many CNN staffers, who were apparently angry over the “blown coverage.”
“It’s outrageous and embarrassing,” a … CNN staffer vented. “Maybe this will shake the company into understanding that CNN has not been the ‘most trusted name in news’ for a very long time.”
And frankly, I can’t blame them for being outraged at their colleagues. The fact of the matter is this is not acceptable.
I have long felt this way, too. Ever since I was a young(er) journalist, I have felt strongly that in our industry, the need to be first often overshadowed the need to be correct, and it has always really irked me.
In fact, back in January, when many news outlets prematurely reported that Joe Paterno had died — when he hadn’t yet passed away — I found myself atop my Twitter soapbox.
Apparently that sentiment struck a nerve with many people. Brian Stelter, a media reporter at the New York Times and a former colleague from my time in New York, retweeted that to his 130,000+ followers.
That night, I heard from dozens of people on Twitter and Facebook — most of whom overwhelmingly agreed with me.
Time and again, we see this happen. And today, we saw it happen on one of the biggest stories of the year.
CNN has issued a memo to its staff, saying, in part:
There are a lot of tweets, posts and pieces out there about our mistake. And more will come. Stay strong. … We are not the story. The story is the story.
Well, CNN, I agree with some of your memo. Yes, you got it wrong. Yes, you should take it seriously. But I don’t agree that you aren’t the story. Because when you got it wrong, when you misinformed thousands upon thousands of people, you became the story — albeit a different story — and not in a good way.
My only hope, as it always is, is that lessons are learned from this.