In 2021, 52% of Americans confirmed they prefer getting their news on digital platforms, and 86% of Americans use their smartphone to do it. For this reason alone, journalists providing breaking news on social media need to be right rather than be first. Using social media to unfold a breaking news story can cause misinformation to spread like wildfire. It can also cause unnecessary harm to the parties involved in the story, which is why we need to make a case for slow news reporting.
In January 2020, basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter perished in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, CA. News about the crash broke so fast that the wrong information was published, causing misinformation to proliferate on social media. Matt Gutman of ABC News reported Kobe Bryant and his four children were on board the helicopter when it crashed. Gutman’s report was completely incorrect and is a perfect example of how journalistic errors spark misinformation spread. The reporter was immediately suspended for the erroneous remark, but not before the damage of the misinformation was done.
News on social media travels fast and wide. In fact, false information spreads 6x faster than accurate information. Kobe Bryant’s wife learned of the tragedy through social media notifications. Vanessa Bryant later revealed the pain and trauma she suffered in response to learning of the loss of her husband and child in such a public way. In the initial reporting, Rick Fox, Bryant’s teammate, was also said to be a victim of the helicopter crash. This claim was also incorrect and was another piece of misinformation to spread on social media that caused harm to an entire family. Again, an example of how fast news ignites a chain reaction of misinformation that could have been avoided by employing a slow news reporting process.
Journalists and media outlets need to slow down to ensure they have all of the correct information about a developing story before publication. The slow news approach does just that. This approach holds journalists accountable for collecting all the facts and verifying them before publishing a report. The slow news approach applies to breaking news stories as well. Sadly, most breaking news stories contain unreliable details and get it outright wrong in the early stages. The slow news movement equals an antidote to misinformation.
There are a few ways for consumers to put media outlets on notice that we will no longer tolerate accepting just an apology for publishing misinformation. One way to hold media outlets accountable is to write to the press and broadcast councils. Another way is to “call-out” the publication with a direct mention on social media when they publish misinformation. Lastly, we can choose to turn off, unsubscribe or unfollow the media outlets that would rather be first than being right. As consumers, we can hold the media accountable to employ the slow news approach and become a member of the Slow News Movement. Together we can decide which news we want or need to consume.
The slow news approach is needed for many reasons. One reason is to give consumers a sustainable media experience. The current 24-hour news cycle providing fast news with emotionally driven headlines designed for reaction creates “news fatigue.” The slow news approach prevents consumers from checking out from news bombardment. The most important reason for a slows news approach is that it prevents the spread of misinformation. As The New Yorks Times confirms, “slow down and be skeptical.” The slow news movement answers the misinformation challenge we face in 2022.
Breaking news fulfills a need for instant gratification, but it also leads to news fatigue and enables the spread of misinformation. Slow news provides readers with the correct information and a deeper insight into the happenings around the world. Studies show this approach will capture a bigger and more loyal audience. As Cafe Chacha Etsy points out in her Instagram post below, “slow news is good news.”