Remember when President Harry Truman famously held up the Chicago newspaper with the headline “Dewey Defeats Truman”? The Chicago Tribune publishing its assumption that Truman had been beaten was an enduring PR embarrassment.
In these electronic times, it can happen again – and it just did.
The 5-4 ruling upholding the health care mandate astonished conservatives and liberals, and was so unexpected that news outlets – who have been ramping up to this decision for about a year – still got it wrong. In jumping the gun, CNN announced in a breaking news alert that the Supreme Court had struck down the individual mandate for health care.
Fox News did the same in its headline, "Supreme Court Finds Individual Mandate Unconstitutional." Already there’s a (photo) making the rounds, a redo of the ‘’Dewey Defeats Truman’’ photo moment, of President Obama holding up an iPad with a screenshot of CNN headlining, wrongly, ‘’Mandate struck down’’ like Truman, is this sweet retribution for "Obamacare"?
Reporter with the Los Angeles Times, Robin Abcarian who covered today’s media gaffes, said those involved were likely swept up in the “their anxiety and enthusiasm” when reporting such an important and hotly debated story.
“There’s eggs on faces in newsrooms all over the country I would say, but especially big cable news, CNN and Fox News,” she said.
Abcarian explained that for many news organizations there are bragging rights in saying “we were the first to report it,” but in situations like this where the information is being released to news organizations worldwide at the same time, it makes no sense to act irresponsibly.
“This was one of the most important decisions to come down and one of the few times when extreme caution was called for, and unfortunately, those big guys really failed the task,” she said. “It’s not as if it’s an enterprise story that you’ll get credit for breaking when nobody else has it.”
After this morning’s misreporting mishap, CNN issued an apology and retraction while Fox News remains steadfast, denying their mistake.
“I don’t think it does them any good to pretend what they said was not said,” Abcarian said.
While, the initial media fiasco is over, such news giants will be left licking their wounds for just a little bit longer.
“They blew it so badly, albeit briefly, that you would hope they would figure out that in the future, it’s really not the most important thing to get it first, it’s the most important thing to get it right. It’s important to do it quickly, but if beating the other guy means making a mistake of monumental proportions, there’s absolutely no professional satisfaction in that,” Abcarian said. “There is blowback on your part [from] your readers and viewers, and it’s frankly something news organization should not be in the position of.”
What do you think of these media flubs? Do you believe those headlines were fair?
Robin Abcarian, national reporter for the Los Angeles Times (wrote article detailing inaccurate reporting by FOX and CNN)