Journalism Fail

Dec 17 2012 @ 10:39am

In the immediate aftermath of the Newton massacre, media outlets rushed to push out the name and online identity of the alleged shooter without verifying them:

6a00d83451c45669e2017c349e7a25970b-550wiFox News [on Friday] broadcast multiple Facebook photos of one Ryan Lanza, claiming he was the same Ryan Lanza law enforcement officials had identified as the gunman in today's shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. In addition, FoxNews.com posted one of the photos to its homepage above the headline, "Gunman ID'd in School Massacre." That photo was also widely circulated by online news outlets via Twitter and posted by BuzzFeed, which noted that the Facebook profile included a check-in in Newtown (his hometown, according to the Facebook page).

As Ryan's name and Facebook photo made the rounds, his responses on Facebook were captured via screenshots by some of his friends, then shared on Twitter to prove he was not the shooter. Then other Ryan Lanzas were confused for the one from Newtown. Now of course we know the actual shooter was Adam Lanza, Ryan's younger brother. At the Dish, we decided to wait the weekend out before analyzing the possible details about potential motives or reasons for this massacre of innocents. Looks like restraint wasn't the worst option. But I've been through these cycles before, and have some scar tissue for rushing to judgment. Matt Lewis fumes over Friday's coverage:

[W]hen it comes time for moralizing, the media predictably assumes the availability of guns is the problem, without considering how journalists themselves might be contributing to the coarsening of our already-violent society. The entertainment-media complex promotes and glamorizes violence — for profit — in film and on TV. Meanwhile, the news media ensures that killers get the attention and fame they so desperately crave. To be sure, a transparent society demands reporting newsworthy incidents — and this definitely qualifies. But it should be done responsibly. And that is not what we have witnessed. We have instead a feeding frenzy that is all about beating the competition — not disseminating information.