All it took to set a new standard for journalists was a 30-second viral video.
In the video, Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann smiled in the face of Nathan Phillips, a Native American, Vietnam veteran participating in the in Indigenous Peoples March.
Quick to react, many celebrities tweeted about the incident, calling Sandmann a “racist” and comparing him to Brett Kavanaugh, the new Supreme Court justice who faced sexual assault allegations prior to his confirmation.
It seemed as if almost every major newspaper had written about the situation within minutes of the video’s virality. Slowly but surely, other sources began releasing longer videos, giving more context to the 30 seconds.
Thanks to multiple hour-long videos, it became clear that the media got it wrong.
Some journalists apologized while others stuck to their critiques from the initial video.
Kara Swisher, a tech writer and New York Times writer tweeted, “I was a complete dolt to put up this and several other obnoxious tweets yesterday without waiting to see the whole video of the incident and I apologize to the kids from Kentucky unilaterally.”
In the age of the Trump administration, distrust among the local and national news outlets has become more common. It is important that journalists and respective news outlets wait until all facts are presented before informing the public by writing the story.
On Jan. 18, KTXS published a story regarding an ongoing investigation into an alleged off-campus gang rape by one former and two current ACU football players.
The Facebook post was shared 336 times, “liked” 510 times and commented on 194 times.
In any reporting class, journalists learn to wait for police reports to write stories about arrests or closed investigations.
Jumping the gun is confusing for audiences and their ability understand what is solidified fact versus what is still being investigated. It blindsides both law enforcement and victims, and leads to quick judgement by outsiders.
Not only was KTXS mistaken by publishing their story without a police report, they also did so with an anonymous source – no credibility nor authority can be granted to their source of information, and none of the other Abilene newspapers chose to write about after the fact.
Jamie Burch, the news director at KTXS, was unavailable for comment on why they chose to run the story.
Because of common distrust, journalists have very few opportunities to mess up. Though it’s enticing to join the fuss and get the clicks, it is more beneficial for audiences to have patience and publish the right story with all possible facts and credible sources.