I frequently flip channels as I watch the local news. As I watched this evening, I happened to catch the same story on three different major network channels out of Phoenix, Arizona. The problem was that each of the channels told a different story on what should have been a very cut and dry event.. the tornado touchdowns in Northern Arizona. The first report interviewed a National Weather Service person, which explained there were 4 tornadoes, 2 of which hit the Bellemont area outside of Flagstaff. One of those hit a Camping World store. The 2nd station did report, 4 tornadoes, 2 in Bellemont but said it hit a Mobile Home park. Camping World is not a Mobile Home park. The 3rd station reported that 4 tornadoes touched down _in_ Bellemont! I had to turn off the news at that point! How could a Phoenix station not even get where tornadoes touched down in their own state correct!?
In my experience with television reporters, I know that they edit what you say to make it more sensational. Radio and print tend to do the same thing. I have done interviews for newspapers and even national magazines where what they printed didn’t at all resemble what I said. The TV spots were edited just to one or two sentences that weren’t necessarily in context.
Most of what is printed or reported has more to do with sensationalism than truth. Consider the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ that is neither a Mosque or at Ground Zero, but the media billed as the being both, so now that’s what the general public believes. A person with a radio or TV following can suggest that Obama is not a US citizen or a Christian without a shred of proof and millions of people blindly accept that as fact. I constantly get the ‘OMG the sky is falling and Obama is going to kill your grandma’ type emails that get passed along like wildfire without anyone ever taking the time to check the facts. I was in a church in St. Louis where the pastor suggested that Obama was not a Christian because he didn’t go to church on Christmas. He got a lot of amens and applause from his large congregation. Last I checked the New Testament, there was no requirement to go to church on Christmas to be a Christian. I did see that verse about judging your neighbor though.
Some where along the line we have become a fact-less nation. It is one thing when the media takes my story and embellishes it in the local newspaper with a circulation of 25,000 people. It is quite another when major news sources and public figures are allowed to broadcast untruths and half-truths without ramifications. Does it matter if viewers think the tornado hit a Mobile Home park filled with people in their homes rather than a Camping World with mostly empty RV's and a few RVs that had people in them ? A Mobile Home Park certainly has more of the 'OMG factor'. Does it make a difference whether viewers in Phoenix believe that there were 4 tornadoes in Bellemont when there were really two? Maybe not, but what else is being reported inaccurately? Don't we deserve accuracy in reporting? We as citizens need to do our part in educating ourselves on issues, but should it be that difficult to get an accurate tornado account? I think we should be able to have some level of trust that major media sources are reporting truthfully and accurately. Unfortunately, we aren’t there yet. Maybe our News outlets should carry disclaimers at the end of their broadcast saying "This Broadcast may contain fictional characters, events and stories. We make no claims to the truth or accuracy of anything we have just said".