It really hasn’t been that long since CNN and FOX incorrectly reported the U.S. Supreme Court’s Affordable Health Care decision. And already a high-profile journalist at ABC has made a huge mistake in covering the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. No, the accused shooter was not a member of the Tea Party, as ABC’s Brian Ross suggested. Why did he go to air with information that had not been verified? That was irresponsible. Did a desire to win one cost his network a black eye? This is shameful. The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik says it well here.
Beyond that, why did Ross go there in the first place? There was nothing in the early hours of that event to suggest that politics or political affiliation had anything at all to do with the attack. And, even now, there is nothing to suggest that. Why look there? Did Ross also look for evidence of Holmes religious affiliation, ethnic background, family history, other affiliations? What else did he assume about the shooter? Or did he have an underlying personal bent against the Tea Party? By suggesting a relationship between Holmes and the Tea Party, his statements on the air implied that shooter equals right-wing fanatic. Huge implication, huge mistake.
Granted, we all make mistakes. But we can do better. I believe that. I’d like for our audiences to be able to believe that too.