A couple months back I helped brainstorm with NPR’s On The Media for their Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook, a basic guide on how to maintain a healthy skepticism when news orgs are covering a breaking news event. There’s been no shortage of major mistakes made by the media in recent years - Gabby Giffords, the Boston Bombing, Newtown, just to name a few - and there’s a lot we can do as news consumers to scrutinize what’s been reported.
This got me thinking about the tropes commonly used by journalists during breaking news and what they really mean. Last month I started documenting the terminology often used during a breaking news broadcast, and now I’ve made a matrix out of it. Each phrase is placed on the matrix based on how credible a report is, and how likely it is that a reporter feels secure if they actually say it on air. For example, if you say “Other networks are reporting,” it suggests you don’t necessarily know any facts yet, and that you’re deflecting blame from yourself to those other networks if it turns out to be wrong. Meanwhile, if you say “Multiple independent sources have confirmed…” it expresses more certitude, both in terms of the facts and your professional security if you go public with it - especially when you name those sources and explain how they came upon that information.
Anyway, this is my second draft of the matrix, and I’d love to get your thoughts on it. Thanks! - @acarvin