In our January 11 News Meeting, we asked our readers, are the kind of errors that followed the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords preventable, or will they always be an unfortunate byproduct of our 24/7 media world?
I vividly remember working the city desk on the night Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. It was election night in Los Angeles and we had all been working since 7 a.m. I was just heading home, about 10 p.m., when the first news hit the radio. For the next twelve or so hours, I ripped updates and bulletins off the wire machines, watching as nearly everyone in California Democratic politics was reported as dead of bleeding, had called in as safe or was on the floor of the hotel kitchen having pounded the shooter, wrestled the shooter to the ground, or taken a bullet in the chest himself. I have copies of most of our rip-and-print editions of that night and early morning, and it will ever be clear to me that everyone was doing the best possible job under the circumstances. The battle is always between being as quick as the readers or listeners want versus pulling “real facts” from public officials whose jobs and futures were on the line. Slow down is the only real solution. —Terry McLaffertyThe Editors are the staffers of Columbia Journalism Review.