We’re often scolded that as bloggers, we’re not real journalists.
This morning the nation awoke to an act of madness. My cell phone screen was covered in updates as I got out of bed half an hour in advance of a planned interview on America’s Morning News. I’m sure most bloggers’ and reporters’ cell phones were the same.
I hit Google to find out what I could. I hit Twitter to see reactions and pick up details. That’s how I picked up Piers Morgan’s disgraceful tweets. As I prepped for the radio interview, news broke that the gunman’s name was James Holmes. I went on the air, talked about the story but didn’t speculate on the gunman’s motives since nothing was known about him yet. AMN’s hosts handled the story with perfect restraint.
After the interview I hit Google again. I hit Facebook hard to scour for a James or Jim Holmes in Aurora, Colorado. I watched Twitter to see if anyone else had anything confirmed.
I’m sure ABC News’ Brian Ross was searching Google and Facebook and Twitter at about the same time I was. So were thousands of other bloggers and reporters.
But I couldn’t come up with anything tying any of the James Holmes’s I found to the massacre in Colorado. I didn’t post any of what I found. Neither did most other people who were doing similar searches.
ABC News’ Brian Ross, on the other hand, reported on the air that his “investigation” had led him to a Jim Holmes who had connections to a Tea Party group. That turned out to be completely and totally false. Ross leaped to a predetermined storyline — Tea Party = violence — smeared an innocent man and changed that man’s life forever. Did Brian Ross ever stop to think that he could be sparking more violence?
At least if we’re confronted with physical danger, most of us now live in states where it is legal to carry firearms to defend ourselves or we can find some other way to defend ourselves and our loved ones. But how can we defend ourselves from the irresponsible, opportunistic mainstream media smear? We’re all at the mercy of “reporters,” scare quotes intended, like Brian Ross now.