“We’re getting the big stories wrong, over and over again,” CBS Evening News anchor and Managing Editor Scott Pelley said at a Quinnipiac University lunch Friday. The first example he gave was one of his own mistakes: Reporting Nancy Lanza was a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
After the Boston bombings last month, “amateur journalists became digital vigilantes,” Pelley said.
Innocent people were marked as suspects, their pictures and their names ricocheted all over Twitter and Facebook and Reddit. That fire that started on the Internet spread to our more established newsrooms as well. In a world where everyone is a publisher, no one is an editor. And that is the danger that we face today. We have entered a time when a writer’s first idea is his best idea. When the first thing a reporter hears is the first thing that she reports. We have lived in a time now when we have seen major television networks take video off of YouTube and broadcast it to millions of Americans without verifying whether the video had been fabricated or not. Twitter, Facebook and Reddit: That’s not journalism. That’s gossip. Journalism was invented as an antidote to gossip.
Noting that both the FBI and President Obama dinged the media for their performance during Boston, Pelley said: “The president of the United States and the FBI were telling us what our bedrock principles should be? Aren’t we supposed to be watching them?”
Quinnipiac gave Pelley its Fred Friendly First Amendment Award. Citing the broadcasting pioneer’s values, Pelley said, “When I think about Fred, I think that he speaks to us every day if we will only listen. And I, for one, would do very well to listen more closely every day.”
AP reporter Kimberly Dozier, CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager, Fox News anchor Eric Shawn and Gay Talese were among those attending, Quinnipiac says.