I still stand by the old ethic that the first rule of journalism is accuracy. Many of my colleagues in the media will fiercely nod their heads at this – while most people not in the media will probably just laugh out loud.
The ‘Choppergate’ scandal – as it has become known – is an interesting case in point.
But what I find even more surprising than the fact it happened – is the media’s constant mis-reporting of what exactly the scandal was in the first place.
A quick internet search and you will repeatedly see it described as:
“…two faked live crosses from its news helicopter at the weekend…”
“…journalists embroiled in the “Choppergate” fake live-cross scandal…”
“…journalists involved in faking a live cross to the Nine News chopper…”
They were not “fake” live crosses.
The journalists were doing live crosses from the Nine News’ helicopter into the news program.
What was fake was the implication that they were reporting from somewhere they were not. Not from the mouths of the journalists themselves but by a graphic (super) on screen which claimed they were “Near Beerwah”.
Am I being pedantic? Yes I am. Because accuracy matters.
As a journalism educator I explain to students that one of the main reasons for using a “piece to camera” (a technique where the reporter records a short piece talking directly to the camera in a packaged report) – is to show that they are there, at the scene.
They have spoken to the relevant people involved and can therefore report – with accuracy – on what has happened.
It gives their report credibility.
But now it seems many news organisation are obsessed with a live cross to the reporter “at the scene” – who in turn ‘live links’ into their packaged report – which includes (usually) a piece to camera to show they were there in the first place!
Talk about overkill.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not defending what happened. To imply a journalist is somewhere they are not is simply wrong – and of course inaccurate.
But if then the rest of the media wants to report on this – it is their duty to report what happened accurately as well.
Maybe something along the lines of:
“…faking its helicopter’s location during two live reports…”