Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Conflicting stories

Putting aside the PR pen for a moment....

We may be returning to the old news of journalism.  When this country was founded, cities had multiple newspapers.  However, most of these papers carried their own unique bias or agenda, usually tied to the political party or movement they supported.  So, getting the complete and unvarnished truth was difficult to get from just one newspaper. 

More than a century ago, Americans were forced to read three or four newspapers to assemble some idea of the "truth" and the complete facts.

Flash forward to 2012.  Now, it seems, we need to do the same.  Only this time we go online to scan stories on a TV news' website, or a news gathering site, or, gasp, newspapers. This extends overseas, too. My European friends living in the U.S. gleefully tell me they read news online from their home country news organizations and get a better sense of world events than what U.S. papers cover.  My couch potato friends in the U.S. gleefully tell me they get all their news from Access Hollywood.

Do we get all the facts from a single news source?  And can we trust a single news source to be accurate?

Case in point:  A major pileup occurred Tuesday, June 26, on a Southern California freeway I once travelled frequently, and in an area where I used to work as a journalist.  OK, so I have, perhaps, a keener interest in this one that most. But, it is a nasty piece of freeway and this pile-up may prompt some changes, I hope.

Most reports had the cause of this horrific crash as this:  The highway patrol slowed traffic to a stop so they could remove a table that had fallen out of some pickup truck.  But, a semi-tractor truck coming up behind this "traffic break" couldn't stop in time and slammed into dozens of vehicles.  Yet, when you read another newspaper's accounts - there is no mention of this.  The pile-up occurred, according to this one newspaper's account, when cars began hitting the wayward table, then each other. There is no mention of the "double-haul" truck.

Which story to believe?  The photos clearly show a double-haul tractor trailer rig in the mess.

When we have some much information to glean in a day about a variety of issues important to us, it's my belief the American public is actually relying on fewer outlets for their news.  The average person doesn't have time to read multiple versions of the same subject. If you have news aggregation, are your inbound news sources the best ones?

So, do we end up simply believing what we read on a daily basis...since we only have time to get the news of the day from a single source?