More important to be right than first
In the news business, getting the story out first is at the top of the list, especially for those 24-hour-a-day news channels and big, daily newspapers. Using such terms as “unconfirmed reports” or “according to an unnamed source,” they forge ahead with stories, often without all the facts.
Or, giving them the benefit of the doubt, stories run before they take time to clarify some things.
Some news groups are now finding out that haste makes waste, or in the case for CNN and other news outlets, haste makes lawsuits.
Exactly a year ago this week, Covington Catholic high school students from Kentucky were in Washington, D.C. for the National March for Life. In an initial video of an encounter between Covington student Nick Sandmann and Omaha tribe elder Nathan Phillips, it appeared that Sandmann was taunting the elderly Phillips.
Another video surfaced days later showing, instead, that a group of Black Hebrew Israelites were actually taunting the students. Sandmann denied the original accusations from the start, saying he was standing his ground when Phillips, who had nothing to do with the Black Hebrew Israelites, approached him.
However, the first video had already gone viral, with many news anchors admonishing Sandmann.
Later, Sandmann filed lawsuits against CNN, the Washington Post and NBC Universal for millions. Earlier this month, it was announced CNN had settled the lawsuit with the Kentucky high school senior. Settlement amounts were not released.
I wonder how different the initial coverage of the encounter last January would have been if Sandmann had been in D.C. at an anti-gun rally or as a pro-choice supporter. Would there have been the same type of coverage? Not likely.
It appears more lawsuits could be coming beyond the initial three. Sandmann’s attorney said the lawsuits were filed not to compensate Sandmann and his family, but to deter the defendants from doing the same thing in the future. Don’t hold your breath.