Someone recently claimed that regulations on press releases and press coverage are well founded, because the media too often prematurely publish information in a way that hurts a nation or individuals. So, I was wondering:

What are the major cases where a (well known/established) news outlet prematurely publishes a story, gets it wrong and in doing so creates substantial lasting political or (physical, financial, psychological) personal damage? Prematurely would mean that the media outlet likely acted in haste in hope of increased financial gain, severe sloppiness, for personal/political gain or similar non-journalistic reasons. Simply publishing a conclusion drawn from facts where additional facts later change the conclusion or some sufficiently established information assumed to be true turns out false would not count - if the conclusion was logical and well supported by the evidence. Neither do factually correct reports count that led people to draw wrong conclusions that the article did not state - unless they are by their wording implying these conclusions and the wording happened due to a premature/hasty publication rather than through intent (e.g. tabloid headlines just by their style would not count).

In addition, is there any statistical evidence that such cases have increased over time or decreased?

  • Do you have some country in particular in mind? – Fizz Jan 29 '20 at 6:36
  • @Fizz No country, but perhaps we can go with a rough focus on international outlets and those of a national level in countries with relative journalistic freedom. So excluding, for instance, North Korea and dictatorships where getting factual information might be hard(er) to come by or media are state controlled. – Frank Hopkins Jan 29 '20 at 10:14
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    Richard Jewell. – dandavis Jan 29 '20 at 19:16
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    All you have to do is look at just about every story reported by CNN or MSNBC for a wealth of examples. – Dunk Jan 30 '20 at 13:46
  • @Dunk Not looking for opinionated coverage or opinion pieces that are not clearly separated from factual reporting and the like, that would include Fox News as well, but premature coverage where they got the statements wrong and didn't do proper journalistic work. The answer by Sjoerd seems to match. Richard Jewell perhaps, though from a quick check that's more a case of the FBI focusing on the wrong person than of the media reporting because of their own hasty conclusions (yet they also might have done a better job). – Frank Hopkins Jan 30 '20 at 14:40

A recent example is the reporting on Nick Sandmann. A viral short video clip suggested that Sandmann was disrespectful to a Native American.

Many news media rushed to report the bad behavior of a white kid with a MAGA hat against a Native American. No checking was done. About the reasons why most news outlets didn't check, one can only speculate.

Soon a longer clip emerged that showed that the Native American was disrespectful and had a known activist history. The clip showed that Sandmann had done nothing but standing and smiling while the Native American walked towards him and banged the drum next to his head.

CNN ignored the second clip and kept repeating the original story for some time after the second clip had emerged.

Sandmann sued CNN for $275 million. CNN settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed figure.

That seems a clear case of personal damage due to hasty reporting, not bothering to investigate both sides, and ignoring contrary evidence.

  • Wow, was going to post the exact same thing. +1 – Chipster Jan 29 '20 at 6:46
  • Yeah, $275 million is a lot of (alleged) damage all right. I didn't think a teenager could have a reputation worth that much. – user8356 Jan 29 '20 at 19:08
  • I think a lot of people found that smarmy grin itself disrespectful... – dandavis Jan 29 '20 at 19:17
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    @user8356 Well, this case allegedly resulted in death threats, so that might be part of it. – Chipster Jan 29 '20 at 19:46

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