Thursday, March 22, 2007

CNN Caught Reporting John Edwards Scoop That Wasn't

The competition among the cable newsers sometimes has a casualty: accurate reporting.
Just before the John Edwards news conference about the recurrence of his wife Elizabeth's breast cancer, CNN ran a headline on the network, its Web site and headline service that appears on that he was suspending his campaign while she was treated.
Which would have been a great thing to be in front on were it not for the fact that Edwards told the nation that just the opposite was happening. That meant CNN had to shuck and jive in its online version.

"The campaign goes on," John Edwards said at a news conference outside the couple's home, contradicting earlier media reports to the contrary.

Those reports, of course, included CNN, though you wouldn't know that from reading that dispatch.
Of course, it was easy to assume Edwards would be stepping aside given that it was unlikely he'd hold a news conference just to let everyone know his wife was all right. And he had canceled a campaign appearance yesterday in Iowa.
As the Des Moines Register notes: "Many political observers speculated this morning that John Edwards would at least suspend the campaign, but those reports proved incorrect."

Ah, speculation. Assumption. Guesswork. None of which have any place in journalism.

No matter how intense the 24-hour news cycle, speculation can't take the place of accurate reporting. Even if it was relying on outside sources, CNN should have used its own formidable resources to first verify the news. You need to get it right before you get it first.

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