Is there no journalistic integrity left? I understand the urge to rush to press with breaking news, but at least make sure what you’re reporting is actually the news. Around 3 a.m. this morning The Huffington Post rushed to press with a report featuring an eyewitness account of the shooting based entirely from Twitter postings from someone who goes by @DesJuanTheThug. (Click on image for larger view)
After publishing the story, it turns out the Twitter postings were actually song lyrics and the @DesJuanTheThug was never at the scene of the shooting. A subsequent post by the supposed witness read “Tell The Huffington Post to do a better job of finding credible sources”.
The Huffington Post has since posted a correction to the story:
Somewhere along the line somebody has to put professionalism ahead of sensationalism. Tensions are already high and blood has been shed. It has always been true that irresponsibility can cost lives, and that danger is certainly heightened with the current state of affairs in this country. By going to press with something that hasn’t had even the most rudimentary vetting, the Huffington Post risked setting off a new round of anger and violence.
Retractions and corrections are great, but we only have to look at how many people are still walking around doing the “Hands up, don’t shoot” gesture inspired by the discredited eyewitness accounts of the Michael Brown shooting to know that those corrections do not always undo the harm done.
The lives of some very dedicated public servants are in danger, and publishing incendiary stories based on false information could very well lead to more bloodshed. Is it too much to ask of the media to find the truth, and THEN report on a story? Being the first to be wrong doesn’t make you look good, nor will it further your journalistic career. Careful, level headed journalism however, will serve you well. Perhaps someone over at The Huffington Post needs to have that talk with their staff.