I’m forever fascinated by the news media, and how often they get it wrong. Anyone who has appeared in the newspaper will tell you that; “that’s not what I meant.” Often it’s breaking news they botch, such as CNN and FOX News reporting of when it was declaring that the Supreme Court had killed “Obamacare”

But it was some hours after the Aurora, Colorado shootings when ABC News’ Brian Ross, interrupting the news anchor, speculated that the shooter may have been a member of a local tea party chapter. Ah, his investigation seems to be that he Googled James Holmes and Aurora and found A James Holmes in Aurora, who is unrelated. The network issued a public apology. This was hardly the first of Ross’ premature reporting.

Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart totally lambasted Ross (at 5:00 in), and rightly so. Regret the Error explains the network’s mealy apology, while at the same time, making me suspicious of another detail of the story. “The network had reported that Holmes’ mother said ‘you have the right person’ when it contacted her to ask if her son was the shooter. She has since said she was referring to herself to let the reporter know she was Holmes’ mother.” I tend to believe Holmes’ mother’s version.

Ross, however, is hardly the only sloppy newsperson at ABC News. In a three-minute span last week, anchor Diane Sawyer made two errors. First, she noted that the British had 9,500 soldiers in Afghanistan, but 18,200 at the Olympics, which is “MORE than twice as many;” not when I went to school. Then she referred to late actor Sherman Hemsley as “Helmsley.” Forgivable mistake, perhaps, but when the reporter on the piece REPEATEDLY announces his name correctly, you’d think she’d fix it. Or, if she didn’t notice, that SOMEONE would whisper into her headphone about her miscue.

It wasn’t that long ago that the late Peter Jennings, who died in 2005, was anchoring ABC’s evening news. Those type of errors likely wouldn’t have taken place, and if they had, heads would have rolled. I’m reminded once again why I gave up my ABC News habit.

11 Responses to “Getting rid of ABC News’ Brian Ross, for starters”

  • It’s the fault of 24/7 rolling news I’m afraid and the pressure to run with unsubstantiated ‘facts’. And we the public don’t help by demanding immediate ‘answers’ to each and every incident which simply fuels speculation rather than accurate reporting.

  • I was a huge fan of Ted Koppel and “Nightline” as a teenager and a kid. I remember during the Clinton thing – the oral sex – Ted Koppel quickly listed off a bunch of things that he could be covering and then said “Instead, we’re covering this…”

    I dunno. It made me vaguely aware that “news” doesn’t seem to have a thing to do with what’s important or what’s really going on.

  • Roger says:

    Oh, I watched Nightline religiously, before it was called Nightline, when it was Day # whatever of the Iran hostage crisis. The current iteration of Nightline is a lesser beast, though there are occasional good stories (taped it to watch Jon Carl interview Dick Cheney this week.)

  • I dunno. Maybe it makes me poorly informed, but I just tend to check the BBC News website.

    I find there’s a lot of clutter, repetition and groupthink in broadcast news. Also, when someone says something stupid it makes me want to smash the TV.

    I was actually thinking of trying to hook up the TV to something while the Olympics was on because I like the Olympics. Guess… I’m too lazy to watch TV? (Horrifying!!! :-D )

  • Roger says:

    I try to look at as many sites as possible, but life gets in the way.

  • Yeah, well… I’m less nomadic. I tend to just “chill” on a few blogs, leave them open all day – when I’m near a computer I refresh them.

    Probably could get more news than just BBC. But I usually find blogs will find news more interesting FOR me… :-)

  • Mama Zen says:

    “Investigative reporting” has been reduced to a Google search? Great.

  • Chris H. said:

    “I remember during the Clinton thing – the oral sex – Ted Koppel quickly listed off a bunch of things that he could be covering and then said “Instead, we’re covering this…” I dunno. It made me vaguely aware that “news” doesn’t seem to have a thing to do with what’s important or what’s really going on.”

    At the risk of sounding sarcastic when I don’t mean to, I am very glad to hear of this old revelation on your part. I hope that today you are more than “vaguely aware” that ALL corporate media TV “news” is toxic garbage. I’m hoping. I never quite give up hope.

  • Um… Dan, I haven’t had a TV that gets reception in about a decade.

  • I saw Diane Sawyer make those mistakes, Roger (one of our pay TV channels plays the evening broadcsts of ABC News and CBS News). I noticed one other mistake: Diane referred to the country of Kiribati as “keer-ah-batty” when, in fact, it’s pronounced “KEER-eh-bahss”. Coming in the same broadcast as the Hemsley/Helmsley gaffe made be despair—yet again—for ABC News.

    Our pay TV service carries BBC World, which is pretty decent, and for a time we had access to headline news broadcasts from Al Jazeera English, which is almost always better at basic news coverage than CNN (the channel that carried Al Jazeera English is now gone). Now I watch some of their investigative reports online.

    I still watch ABC or CBS news, but not for news—I get that elsewhere. Instead, those broadcasts show me what the mainstream US news media is obsessing about, and that, in turn, lets me understand American politics better.

  • Roger says:

    Arthur – me, too. The Made in America thing has been HUGE on ABC News. Don’t know that it’s News as such, but they’ve got a LOT of mileage out of it, inckuding the Olympic uniforms made in China.

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