Editorial: Rush to report
Maybe it’s just human nature to want answers and to have mysteries solved ... and it’s the media’s job to help with all that by disseminating news and information.
In the case of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 over the South China Sea, however, the public is reminded that the desire to find out about things doesn’t always match the pace that information becomes available.
But that fact doesn’t stop people from wanting to know ... or the news media — faced with 24-hour-a-day deadlines — with trying to provide the answers.
Unfortunately, those pressures too often lead to the production of “news” that is more conjecture and misinformation than facts. At its most benign, that means the public is fed by a continuous loop of the same scant information — the plane’s route, how many passengers were on board, statements from various officials, etc.
More troubling is the likelihood that news outlets will spend considerable time interviewing people with some sort of tenuous expertise, who are encouraged to speculate — sometimes wildly — on that same sparse information.
What makes this dangerous is that these unfiltered musings too often are perceived as fact.
The biggest harm here is to the family and friends of those on that airplane, whose hopes may be raised or dashed based upon this misinformation.
Meanwhile, we also have to wonder just how much energy and time is being spent by the airline and those now involved in the search for the missing Boeing 777 jetliner trying to meet the continuous demand for information. Since communication was lost with the airline’s crew when it dropped off radar on Saturday, Malaysia Airlines has had 11 press briefings. Yet there has been little new information to provide between that first news conference and the most latest one.
Gen. Rodzali Daud, head of the Malaysian Air Force, said at the news conference Wednesday that officials are still “examining and analyzing all possibilities” when it comes to the plane’s flight path.
Over time, it is possible that the fate of Flight MH370 and its crew and passengers will be known.
But even in this fast-paced world, getting the story right needs to have precedence over a rush to provide any and all information — that will better serve those affected by this tragedy.