Our Viewpoint: CBS — Mistakes can lead to examples of journalistic integrity for everyone

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, October 11th, 2017 at 6:10 PM

When looking at the field of journalism as a whole, there are several mistakes you should avoid at all costs. Libel, burning a source and publishing fiction tend to be the main transgressions. But let’s start at social media activity. And let’s not even start with an actual journalist. 

On Monday, Oct. 2, one day after the Vegas shooting, then CBS employed Hayley Geftman-Gold wrote in a Facebook comment her true thoughts on the incident. It would cost her the job.

“If they wouldn’t do anything when children were murdered I have no hope that the Repugs will ever do the right thing. I’m actually not even sympathetic bc country music fans often are Republican gun-toters,” stated Geftman-Gold in the comment that has since been deleted. 

Geftman-Gold was the VP and senior legal counsel at CBS in New York and was fired the day after making the comment. 

Now it couldn’t possibly get worse than that, right? Wrong. Tom Petty enters stage left.

Petty, the famous rock musician known for songs like “I Won’t Back Down” and “Free Fallin’,” was found unconscious in his home, not breathing and in full cardiac arrest, but still alive. Instead of waiting for multiple confirmations, he’d be prematurely pronounced dead by CBS. The news spread like wildfire and without any official denial or confirmation, was picked up by multiple other media outlets before finally being confirmed false by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).

Upon the news release from the LAPD, CBS promptly rescinded their previous comments stating that they had “reported information obtained officially from the LAPD about Tom Petty” and that “the LAPD later said it was not in a position to confirm information about the singer.” This error? By full-fledged journalists. 

So you might be reading this and wondering why you should care, or how these events are really tied together to journalistic integrity, and I’d like to explain how.

First off, as many have seen, we are experiencing a massive advent of “fake news,” whether it be real or just used as a buzzword to throw off the American people from the real issues. This has inadvertently brought to light the usefulness of fact-checking, which is something needed to maintain credibility in today’s political climate. 

Had CBS not quickly stated their fault and made corrections to their earlier report, they would have lost major credibility, at least for a time, in their users. Publishing a fake obituary is quite literally the definition of fake news, as anyone who has seen one of the 30 fake celebrity death posts a year would know.

By claiming fault and giving an explanation, they helped keep their image by explaining their mistake and not diverting blame entirely to another source. While it was a combined issue on both the LAPD and CBS, they still chose to not just blame the police department, but also themselves.

Now, the next incident comes into the picture, and this is just as important in my eyes. With the heavy scrutiny laid on politicians and their compatriots, it makes sense an organization that reports it in this way should practice what they preach, and they did exactly this.

With news organizations speaking of impeachment and the importance of wording and what one says in the public sphere, they took the correct course of action with the dismissal of Geftman-Gold. She said something cruel and crass in the wake of a tragedy, and deservingly lost her position due to it.

Had CBS not done this, they likely would have a situation of lost credibility as their readers and opposition would now have moral reason to avoid their publication. Who would trust a company who goes against their prescribed morals and lets an employee speak like that behind their company’s name?

There are two main takeaways from this day that should be adhered to by all media outlets: the first is to stick to facts and always take blame if it is deserved, and the second is to never let one bad apple (journalist or employee of a journalistic organization) spoil the bunch. 

This is the only way for news to maintain a moral high ground and validity in today’s environment. 

With the advent of technology putting everyone under the microscope and “fake news” being thrown at every news organization seemingly in existence, the journalism field is under fire. The least that those in the field and those planning on going into it can do is to take a precautionary approach that fosters truth and morals. 

Another week, another crisis in journalism. This week? Jemele Hill’s suspension from ESPN following some choice tweets. Have an opinion? Let us know through a “Letter To The Editor.”

Our Viewpoint is voted on by the staff of The Spectator.

Tags: voices, opinion

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