“Our house is on fire,” CBS anchor Scott Pelley said in a speech last week at Quinnipiac University in which he lamented that journalists “are getting big stories wrong, over and over again” (h/t The Weekly Standard).
Claiming that contemporary media are more interested in being first than being right, the CBS newsreader delivered a mea culpa:
Let me take the first arrow: During our coverage of Newtown, I sat on my set and I reported that Nancy Lanza was a teacher at the school. And that her son had attacked her classroom. It’s a hell of a story, but it was dead wrong. Now, I was the managing editor, I made the decision to go ahead with that and I did, and that’s what I said, and I was absolutely wrong. So let me just take the first arrow here.
On the one hand, Pelley deserves credit for admitting fault in his reporting of a major story. On the other hand, this offense was far from the most egregious committed by his network in what he termed a “bad few months for journalism.” If he really wanted to make a clean breast of it, he could have mentioned that CBS was the last of the major networks to lift its blackout on coverage of the murder trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gonsell.
But not all of Pelley’s criticism was self-directed anyway. In a video of highlights from the speech compiled by nowthisnews.com, Pelley says in successive segments:
Never before in human history has more information been available to more people. But at the same time, never before in history has more bad information been available to more people.,,,
In a world where everyone is a publisher, no one is an editor. And that is the danger that we face today….
One gets the sense that this “money quote” is what the whole speech was really striving to communicate. An alert reader will hear echoes of another earlier CBS anchor who also had a low opinion of bloggers, calling them — to paraphrase — “guys sitting in their living room in their pajamas writing what they think.” Then again, that reporter had an axe to grind, having been exposed by his PJ-clad peers not just for misreporting the news but inventing it in the hopes of influencing the outcome of a presidential election.
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