Playing with the Facts Has Consequences

​The intern working for the Oakland, California Fox TV station KTVU has learned the hard way that taking license with the facts can come back to bite you — as it should. The station erroneously reported the names of the four pilots aboard Asiana Airlines Flight 214 that crash landed in San Francisco as: Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk, and Bang Ding Ow. Amidst a tragedy where people died and the pilots’ roles are being investigated, it was insensitive, to say the least, to make fun of the nationality and names of these individuals. One also has to ask: where were the editors? It reminds me of my first job out of journalism school at the then Springfield Union, in Springfield, MA. There I was, armed with my newly minted masters of journalism degree from The Medill School of Journalism and I was assigned to the obituary desk. Obituaries, I thought? That’s a lowly job. Why should I have to do that? Why? Turns out there was and is a very good reason that every journalist and anyone in the communications business could take a lesson from. When writing an obituary, you had better be careful with the facts. If you get the name of the deceased wrong or misspell it, there are real consequences and people get angry and upset. It only takes one mistake to learn that lesson the hard way. That training is a little too rare in the 24/7 media environment we all live in. But there are real victims of the rush to publish. And all too often, the facts are among them. By Michal Regunberg, Senior Vice President at Solomon McCown & Company

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