Sunday, September 15, 2013

Conflicting Reporting Can Create Confusion, Chaos

Dr Rabin Man Shakya

Have you ever come across conflicting news stories in different newspapers? Or have you ever felt that the details in the news stories are, more often than not, exaggerated?

Conflicting stories are being published not only in the Nepalese newspapers, but in the newspapers of the West too.

Twelve years have past since the catastrophe of 9/11. During the process of the collapsing of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, a number of people started to jump down in a desperate sign. At that time the New York Times reported that the number of people jumping down from the tower was 50 based on eye-witness reporters and video materials.

Meanwhile, the USA Today reported that number to be 200 based on eye-witnesses, forensic evidence and video materials. This is a glaring example of conflicting news stories.

Remember when we were told that given the number of people working at the WTC on September 11, 2001, we should expect 20,000 to 40,000 dead. The actual death toll came to be 2,977. This episode and example is pretty much just the tip of the iceberg in journalism.

So, why does the conflicting detail emerge in the stories? It is mainly because of the problem of deadline and problem of egoistic attitude of "my newspaper should be the first to print the scoop."

The conflicting stories may be because of political reasons, for example, if there are tensions in the Korean Peninsula, the version of South and North Korea may be totally different. The other reason could be: the victim mentioned in the story may be giving reporters conflicting details on the events leading up to the event or accident.

The other reason of conflicting stories may be the different details and quotes of different eye-witnesses. In case of some accidents and events, sometimes witnesses and law enforcement officials may be giving totally different accounts of what led to the incident.

The probabilities and possibilities of conflicting stories are potentially high in countries where journalism is deeply polarized.

There is no doubt that conflicting stories can have a negative impact and may create confusion and chaos in the society.

Therefore, in order to prevent the conflicting details in stories, the reporters should never include facts and figures based merely on assumptions, video materials, etc.

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