NPR’s Mark Stencel gave an intriguing talk last Wednesday night entitled, “Instanews: Depth and Context in Motion.” The main objective of his public lecture was to let us (current and future journalists) know that the world of journalism is changing, and it’s all because of the instantaneous news that is now provided to us via social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. While all of the information that Mr. Stencel provided us about “instanews”, the most interesting part of his lecture, to me, was about the mistakes that journalists make everyday in the newsroom.
Stencel’s account of NPR’s mishap concerning Representative Gabrielle Gilford’s condition after a shooting in Tucson, Arizona was truly heart wrenching. NPR posted on numerous networking sites that Gilford, along with six others were killed in the shooting, only problem was that she was still in surgery, and in fact not dead. NPR’s social media postings then backfired on them, as soon the news was all over the Internet from different sources, claiming, “NPR confirms…”
What’s more, is that Stencel found himself sitting next to Gilford’s husband six months later, and had to apologize to him face to face for his company’s media disaster. Her husband told Stencel that hearing that his wife was dead after the shooting was the hardest and worst moment for him and his family. He thought his wife was dead when she actually wasn’t.
Stencel then went on to tell us the procedures that NPR took following their mishap with Gilford and her family. They published a lengthy apology to the family, telling them how their accident happened and what measures the company was going to, to ensure that something like this would never happen again.
What was so unfortunate about the situation was that NPR met their two-source policy, and those two sources looked to be very credible. One source was a congressman very close to Gilford and their family, and the other was the sheriff’s office. Now, although the sources seemed to appear credible, Stencel did note that NPR did not take the necessary measures to make sure that the sources knew what they were talking about. Stencel went on to tell us that,
“Mistakes will be made. You’re not going to get it right all the time. You’re going to screw up, it’s how you deal with it when you do.”
This is something that I will take me wherever my journalism career goes, as it ensures me that no journalist is perfect, and even the best make mistakes at times. However, it is how you make up for those mistakes that counts, and makes you grow as a journalist.