Amanda Knox Is Guilty... Of Making Newspapers Jump The Gun On Guilty Headlines

from the dewey-beats-truman dept

Almost certainly the most famous case of incorrect headlines by a newspaper trying to rush to press early goes to the infamous Dewey Defeats Truman headline in the Chicago Tribune, published on November 3, 1948... which was, of course, actually the day that Truman defeated Dewey.
In our more "real time" news world, the quest to be "first" with a breaking news story can lead newspapers to do interesting things. It's no secret, of course, that many news organizations will pre-write certain stories, but it appears that a bunch of UK papers, in getting ready for the verdict over Amanda Knox, were so desperate to get the scoop out first, that they must have loaded up two versions of the story with their fingers poised right over the publish button as the verdict came out. Unfortunately for "the press," the court first noted that Knox was "guilty" of defamation, and then cleared her on the murder charges.

But it appears that the eager button pushers in various newsrooms simply heard "guilty" and hit "publish" on the "guilty" versions of the story. Malcolm Coles' blog presented a bunch of evidence of various newspapers going live with the "guilty version."


He notes that the Daily Mail version of the story had all sorts of totally falsified details:
Of course, that opening sentence didn't happen. The story also included other made up details:
As Knox realized the enormity of what judge Hellman was saying she sank into her chair sobbing uncontrollably while her family and friends hugged each other in tears.

A few feet away Meredith's mother Arline, her sister Stephanie and brother Lyle, who had flown in especially for the verdict remained expressionless, staring straight ahead, glancing over just once at the distraught Knox family.

Prosecutors were delighted with the verdict and said that 'justice has been done' although they said on a 'human factor it was sad two young people would be spending years in jail'.

Following the verdict Knox and Sollecito were taken out of court escorted by prison guards and into a waiting van which took her back to her cell at Capanne jail near Perugia and him to Terni jail, 60 miles away.
The various newspapers that published the "wrong" story quickly updated to the "correct" one -- almost certainly also pre-written with similar details of "reactions" that hadn't actually happened at the time of writing. But that also resulted in some interesting juxtaposition while Google News had competing headlines from the same sources:

Nice to see that getting the story right is very much secondary to getting the story first. Nice work by Coles to catch all of this and highlight it on his blog.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    BentFranklin (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:20pm

    The press is no longer the Fourth Estate. They have abdicated all pretense at estate status. They are just another corrupt business.

     

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  2.  
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    lucidrenegade (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:22pm

    Is the Daily Mail one of Rupert's papers?

     

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  3.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:23pm

    And "real" journalism is better than blogging, um... how?!

     

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  4.  
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    me, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:25pm

    stop it already

    Who cares??? Why is US media giving such coverage to this when there are thousands protesting in our own country.... priorities people...

     

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  5.  
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    The eejit (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:26pm

    Re:

    Sadly, no. It's worse. Imagine a Fox-clone in print form.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:27pm

    Response to: Ima Fish on Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:23pm

    Because news is supposed to be fact and blogging is opinion? Nice try though troll.

     

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  7.  
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    Nathan F (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:31pm

    Re: stop it already

    Young, attractive, white female. That is why the news media is all over this.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:32pm

    Re: Response to: Ima Fish on Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:23pm

    Me thinks you missed both the point.. and the /sarc tag.... FAIL!

     

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  9.  
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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:33pm

    I think this calls for a different kind of new content. If the vast majority of it can be pre-written (I mean the background, not the made-up sinking in your chair and sobbing) maybe instead of publishing a new article each time with repeat information we need something a bit more like a wiki which is updated when something new happens.

     

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  10.  
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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:33pm

    Re:

    I meant news content.

     

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  11.  
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    Scooters (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:36pm

    The UK...

    ... libel laws ...


    ... Uh oh.

    Best hope those rags have a few penny pouches on the standby, love. I've a feeling they're going to need them once those "emotions" run their course.

     

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  12.  
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    Lord Binky, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:37pm

    Made up statements?

    What happens when the person who is “quoted” reads the story and points out that they never said that.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:38pm

    Sadly, with the online competition from all over the world, papers are often forced to write both possible outcomes and then release one as soon as they have the answer. If someone got the wrong signal (and it appears more than one did) then all of a sudden you have a flood.

    Find it here first... with global competition, it only gets worse.

     

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  14.  
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    FM HIlton, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:38pm

    The news isn't news anymore

    It's actually entertainment, and as such, the media loves to make up stories (true, false or completely baseless) to entice readers.

    It doesn't mean they're accurate. They're making stuff up just to fill the holes. They get caught out on this stuff a lot more than just a few times.

    They're creating news for the most part, and then advertising that some of the media are "fair and balanced".

    That is: Fair to their advertising and balanced on their profit sheets.

     

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  15.  
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    Lord Binky, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:39pm

    Re: Made up statements?

    Is it a non-issue for the news to make up what a specific person said? It is not like they left it in the realm of possibility by leaving it generic with an Area Man makeing his comment.

     

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  16.  
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    blaktron (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:40pm

    Re: Re:

    Umm, wouldn't a Fox Clone be a Murdock paper? Seeing as, you know, Fox is?

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:40pm

    Really? Mr. I-don't-stand-behind-my-own-articles is passing judgment on others who write articles? Classic.

     

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  18.  
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    Nathan F (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:41pm

    Re:

    As much as I would love to see the circus of a libel case, can they still be brought to court if they 'printed a retraction', acknowledged their mistake and apologized? Granted so far it just seems they pulled the incorrect article and put up the correct one, but the Internet never forgets.

     

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  19.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:41pm

    Re: Response to: Ima Fish on Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:23pm

    Who says bloggers can't blog about facts?! And it's apparent from this story that "real" journalists aren't concerned with facts. Considering they simply made facts up.

     

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  20.  
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    blaktron (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:42pm

    Re:

    I was thinking that too, publishing that someone is convicted of murder when they have been acquitted is pretty clearly libel.

     

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  21.  
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    John Doe, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:43pm

    Who said journalism is dead?

    Journalism isn't dead, it is just busy writing two of everything.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:44pm

    How do you post links in text?

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:47pm

    Re: Response to: Ima Fish on Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:23pm

    news these days is opinion, the opinion of the ruling elite.

    I'll take my chances with bloggers, thank you.

     

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  24.  
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    DV Henkel-Wallace (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:00pm

    Like old sports reporting

    This is how Ronald Reagan got his start: he would read the ticker tape reporting of faraway baseball games and then describe the game over the radio to listeners. The ticker tape just had raw data (hits, outs etc) so he would make up the background detail.


    (Not to mention that many people follow cases like this as they follow sport)

     

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  25.  
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    ComputerAddict (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:01pm

    Defamation

    Knox was found GUILTY of Defamation,

    This is how it played out in my imagination:
    the reporters heard the judge say "The Defendant is found GUILTY".. Now to the word "guilty" is like a track race's starting gun, at this point all of the reporters turned and ran out of the courtroom to print their articles, now back to the story, "of Defamation, on the second count of Murder in the first degree the defendant is found NOT GUILTY"

     

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  26.  
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    nasch (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:05pm

    Re:

    Sorry, no, they are not forced to pre-write stories with completely made up claims in them. They choose to do that.

     

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  27.  
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    PaulT (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:07pm

    Re:

    Nope, The Sun is, which happens to have reported similar results. The Fail is one of the other right-wing reactionary rags, and I note the presence of the newspaper nicknamed the Torygraph because of its right-wing views.

    Funnily enough, I'm not seeing The Independent or The Guardian in those results, among others.... I wonder if that's because they're more centrist/left-leaning papers who actually practice journalism rather than xenophobia and hatred? Not that I'm going to be partisan here, but it's interesting how the tabloid idiots who constantly get caught out in blatant lies are almost always right-leaning (Mirror excluded, of course).

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:10pm

    Re: Re:

    No, they pretty much have to in order to stay competitive, because if they don't, they won't be "first", and will lose advantage.

    Quite simply, if they don't do it, the competition will. It sucks, but that's life.

     

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  29.  
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    PaulT (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:15pm

    Re: stop it already

    US media? Where? Oh, the Globe And Mail had one post listed among the UK newspapers.... no, wait that's Canadian! What are you on about? Is Techdirt the US media now?

     

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  30.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:15pm

    Re: Response to: Ima Fish on Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:23pm

    Way to mix media and messages. Let's break this down:

    JOURNALISM is a pursuit - it includes hard news reporting, research, analysis, editorial/opinion, audience interaction, entertainment coverage, light news, human interest - lots of stuff

    NEWS is, as you say, supposed to be about pure objective fact. It's just one component of journalism.

    A NEWSPAPER is a medium. It is just a way of printing stuff. The term carries associations with journalistic values, but a newspaper can in fact be anything from a drug store tabloid to a parody like the Onion to a serious news outlet.

    A BLOG is similarly, just a medium. And like newspaper, it can be used for anything from hard reporting to photos of cats. Because the bar to entry is lower, there is greater variety among blogs than among newspapers.

    so...

    NEWS is a part of JOURNALISM which can be communicated in a NEWSPAPER or in a BLOG. But the simple fact that something is a BLOG or a NEWSPAPER tells you nothing about what kind of JOURNALISM it contains (and how much of that journalism is hard NEWS), or even if it contains any at all.

     

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  31.  
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    PaulT (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:18pm

    Re:

    The Fail tends to get away from these frequent mistakes on UK related stories by hiding an apology away in the US section of its website. I wish I was kidding, and the complaints commission seem to be worse than useless....

     

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  32.  
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    Richard (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:18pm

    Re: Re:

    I remember a few years ago a friend of mine was involved in a complicated court case. He was dismayed by the inaccuracy of most of the reporting in the media. He commented that if their reporting of the big stories of the day was as inaccurate as the reporting of his case then the public really has no idea what is going on. He made one exception to this conclusion - the Guardian.

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:19pm

    So...

    Which version is considered "Hot News"?

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:19pm

    Re: Defamation

    In an ironic turn of events, several newspapers were found guilty of libel and defamation for their false articles.

    /s

     

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  35.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:20pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Another pretty serious way to lose advantage over the competition is to fuck up like this, lying to all your readers and exposing your questionable methods.

    So it's not quite as simple a decision as you make it sound. Being first is important - perhaps moreso than it should be - but it's not the ONLY thing newspapers have to worry about.

     

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  36.  
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    PaulT (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:21pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    However, theoretically at least, frequent mistakes in this area will make people go elsewhere for their "exclusives", since who cares if it's exclusive if it's completely wrong?

    Of course, that relies on the brain power of the average Mail/Sun reader, which only primates tend to envy. At least we're reading something other than how fat/thin/pregnant/not pregnant a "star" of a minor soap is.

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:21pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    id rather wait to read a story from a someone I can trust to actually be reporting the news instead of the first guy to make up a nice story vaguely resembling(or in this case not at all resembling) the facts.

    If I had been a reader of any of these "news" sites that printed a bunch of made up fluff and passed it of as fact I wouldn't be anymore.

    You can stay competitive by writing the truth and writing it well, investigating and shedding new light on things rather than parroting other stories helps too. Maybe being fast will get you some instant action but a good reputation will get you repeat customersBut its sad that these reporters would rather have the breaking news page views instead of the slightest bit of journalistic integrity.

     

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  38.  
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    E. Zachary Knight (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:24pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Or they could write a well researched and well written story a day or two late and have people actually read facts rather than fiction.

     

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  39.  
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    Chosen Reject (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    This is absolutely true. I might or might not have gone to The Sun or Daily Mail for this story first, but now that they've shown that they are willing to make up stuff just to be first, I won't go to them for any other story, whether they are first or not. Their attempt at being first for one story, has shown that they aren't trustworthy for any story.

    Being first might gain you viewers now, but being wrong loses you viewers for a long time. In this case, showing that you lie loses you viewers for ever.

     

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  40.  
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    Overcast (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:41pm

    And "real" journalism is better than blogging, um... how?!

    It's not, that's just what people who make money being somehow the 'official news' would have us believe.

    What makes them 'official' and a site like this one 'not' official?

     

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  41.  
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    DogBreath, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:42pm

    Re: So...

    The one in which it is reported that Generalíssimo Francisco Franco is still dead

     

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  42.  
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    Chosen Reject (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    A day or two late seems a bit long even. Either one of these papers could have waited 10 minutes and saved a lot of face. I'm glad they didn't though. Otherwise I might have trusted their other stories. Now I have no reason to trust them for anything. Neither of these papers can be trusted for even weather reports.

     

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  43.  
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    The Devil's Coachman (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:44pm

    Re: Re:

    Maybe the internet never forgets, but gimme an individual, and a baseball bat, and I can make them forget. Remember, it's now how many you can make forget, but who.

     

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  44.  
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    Rocco, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:45pm

    Re: Re:

    At the end of the blog post it said.

    Embarrassing. (To be fair, Sky News and the Guardian also claimed she'd been found guilty - just not quite in so much detail ...!)

    So I guess the Guardian got it wrong too.

     

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  45.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Bad example. Nobody can be trusted for weather reports :)

     

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  46.  
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    The eejit (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:49pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Not necessarily. It's the same level of truth-distortion is involved, was my point. The fables Village of Liars is more honest than the Daily (Hate)Mail.

     

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  47.  
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    The eejit (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 1:51pm

    Re: Re: Defamation

    "But...but...IT WAS THE TRUTH AS WE KNEW IT!!!"

     

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  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 2:09pm

    Fourth Estate

    How about we create a manifesto for the Fourth Estate, and then make it a membership organization. Then we can confer Fourth Estate status to publications that conform to...

    We might also profit!

     

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  49.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 2:16pm

    Re: Re: stop it already

    I am in Mexico on Cable and get the San Diego network feeds, as well as BBC. ALL of them went live to the court announcement. I had to change to an all re-run station to get away from it. I guess nothing much else was happening.

    Oh wait...

     

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  50.  
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    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 2:22pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I think being first may be overblown. If it an investigative piece that you are working on undercover, then yes, first is important.

    But THIS was a public event, broadcast worldwide by several hundred 'news' organizations. These 'print' (Internet) organizations have no hope of beating live. So, the can get second at best, and at what cost?

     

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  51.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 2:45pm

    It's just current events mad libs...

    Have fun with it! After all, if you're relying on the media to actually report valid facts and share what's really going on in the world you're already completely self deluded.

     

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  52.  
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    MM_Dandy, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 2:54pm

    Re: Re: stop it already

    ...and the crime involved kinky sex.

    By the way, some advice for the next potential hook-up partner: wear protection - may I recommend a shark suit?

     

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  53.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 3:01pm

    Re: Response to: Ima Fish on Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:23pm

    The point was that, in reality, it ends up being the other way around, with fact-happy blogs and opinionated papers.

     

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  54.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 3:03pm

    Re: Re:

    I wouldn't think she'd be able to claim much in damages, since she was already convicted of murder once. There's not much more you can do to her reputation at this point.

     

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  55.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 3:04pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    ^^

     

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  56.  
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    btr1701, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 3:08pm

    Re: Response to: Ima Fish on Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:23pm

    > Because news is supposed to be fact and
    > blogging is opinion? Nice try though troll.

    In which case it wasn't a troll at all, since here we have the news making up facts that didn't happen, hence no actual distinction between the news and blogging.

     

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  57.  
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    btr1701, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 3:11pm

    Re: stop it already

    > Why is US media giving such coverage to this
    > when there are thousands protesting in our
    > own country.

    Because I'd rather see pictures of a cute American girl reunited with her family than a bunch of smelly malcontents laying around a public park, chanting 'Down with capitalism!", while at the same time texting on their iPhones, blogging on their laptops, and slurping down their Snapples.

    At the very least my irony meter won't keep red-lining.

     

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  58.  
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    Almost Anonymous (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 3:44pm

    I present, my impression of the Daily mail:

    "Frist!"

    then

    "Oh crap..."

     

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  59.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 3:53pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    That's a very good and really important point. If an alien with no context was monitoring the earth during a major event, they would be baffled: hundreds if not thousands of people working at top speed to deliver fifty different versions of the exact same facts to everyone else, all within seconds of each other. The news industry wastes so much manpower competing at things that don't need to be a competition anymore, and so much space printing wire copy to ensure they don't miss leave anything out even if they have nothing new to say about it. I feel like there's a lofty word along the lines of "Kafkaesque" (but not that) that describes it perfectly - but I can't think of it so I'll just call it hilarious.

    There is absolutely no need to replicate basic facts ad nauseum. First-hand reporting benefits from some variety, sure (I'm not suggesting we send one guy to cover every major story) but you just have to laugh at a press circus, with fifty reporters thrusting their mics upwards as though there were only so many sound waves to go around.

    So it's not just that they have to give up trying to be first - they have to give up trying to be everywhere, too.

     

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  60.  
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    Chosen Reject (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 4:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You got me there, but in the interest of trying to save face, I will now claim that meteorologists get the forecasts wrong, newspapers should just report those forecasts, and now I will no longer trust them to do that properly.

    If that doesn't work, can I derail the conversation by calling you names and of being a supporter of Mazburglar?

     

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  61.  
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    nasch (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 4:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Of course, that relies on the brain power of the average Mail/Sun reader, which only primates tend to envy.

    Which primates, humans?

     

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  62.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 8:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I will now claim that meteorologists get the forecasts wrong, newspapers should just report those forecasts, and now I will no longer trust them to do that properly

    Unless, of course, the two errors cancel each other out! I once spent weeks with my weather widget accidentally set to Toronto, Ohio instead of Toronto, Ontario, and found the results to be slightly less accurate after I fixed it...

     

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  63.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2011 @ 8:53pm

    Re: Re: Response to: Ima Fish on Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:23pm

    "with fact-happy blogs and opinionated papers."

    I must disagree. This wasn't fact vs opinion. This was fact vs lies.

    When they supposedly had reactions and quotes for something that didn't happen, there is no way around that they flat out lied.

     

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  64.  
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    nasch (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 9:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Response to: Ima Fish on Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:23pm

    When they supposedly had reactions and quotes for something that didn't happen, there is no way around that they flat out lied.

    Unless you like the distinction between lies and bullshit that H.G. Frankfurt makes in On Bullshit. I think this is more bullshitting than lying. The paper wasn't aiming specifically to deceieve anyone, it's just that the truth had no particular relevance to their objective. Which is kind of scary for a "news" organization.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  65.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Oct 4th, 2011 @ 10:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Good point :) I was thinking the lower orders, maybe howler monkeys...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  66.  
    icon
    WysiWyg (profile), Oct 5th, 2011 @ 2:15am

    Why first?

    I don't get it. What's the point in being "first" on something like this? You will at best beat the competition by a couple of minutes!

    If it was a brand new story that no one else knew about, that would be one thing, but "breaking" a ruling in a case like this is worthless. Especially if you add the possibility of screwing it up like this.

    Even if they hadn't pushed the "wrong button", there would still be the risk of being called out on the fact that you made pretty much everything up. Is that risk REALLY worth those extra minutes?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  67.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Oct 5th, 2011 @ 6:11am

    Re: Why first?

    You will at best beat the competition by a couple of minutes!

    Not even minutes. Seconds.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  68.  
    identicon
    Pete Simpson, Oct 5th, 2011 @ 7:41am

    Ooh shock

    Love this article, itclearly demonstrates the fact that press is business, and business has no morals when profits are the goal. I have no interest at all in one person in another country's conviction of killing one person in another country a year or so ago, when thousands of children die weekly in Africa.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  69.  
    icon
    Boost (profile), Oct 6th, 2011 @ 10:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    MSNBC is worse. Fox's news stories remain fairly free of bias. Now their opinion stories, that's another matter. But you woudln't know that since you never actually read fox news stories, do you? How about developing your own opinion.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  70.  
    icon
    Boost (profile), Oct 6th, 2011 @ 10:16am

    Re: Re: Response to: Ima Fish on Oct 4th, 2011 @ 12:23pm

    What do you mean, these days? You think anything has changed in the last millenium? News becomes history when it is accepted by the masses. If anything, news is becoming better because of social media...although, it still requires a discerning ear.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  71.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Oct 6th, 2011 @ 11:21am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    MSNBC is worse. Fox's news stories remain fairly free of bias.

    Got any evidence for that? I tried politifact, but they don't seem to have a way to look up claims by news organization.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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