I have often stated whether on my blog or in comments that I fully believe that the media, for the large part, has been failing us for a long time. I do not, however, believe it to be failing us because of supposed political bias. For me, the media is fairly balanced in it's reporting on straight news. When it comes to politics that is often a different story.
Where the media has largely failed us is that the supposed "news" outlets no longer do research before reporting on stories. This often leads to mistakes and from time to time reporting a story that is not in actuality real.
The latest example comes from the town I am living in, Russellville, Arkansas. About two weeks ago a story broke about Russellville's Middle School yearbook having a poll in ranking the five worst people in history. On that list were Adolph Hitler and Osama bin Laden, which just about everyone can agree on. Charles Manson is also on that list (personally I can think of quite a few people that could and should be ahead of him on the list). Where the controversy came was the inclusion of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney at numbers 4 and 5 respectively.
Politics aside it was a ridiculous list to have in the yearbook to begin with, but where the media failed was in simple geography and the name of the school.
On numerous websites it was reported that Russellville Middle School was in Little Rock, Arkansas. It is not and very simple research would have fixed this problem. Unfortunately some "news" organizations simply copy and paste their stories and that is how the mistake is made. I do not know which site was the first to make this error, but the mistake probably occurred because the original story was originally posted on fox16.com's website, which is a channel in Little Rock and the assumption was made that since a Little Rock station was reporting on the story that the school was actually in Little Rock. Again, it is a simple error but one that could have been avoided. Instead absolutely no research was done on the story so websites begin reporting that the school was indeed in Little Rock. Yahoo.com was the first website I noticed the mistake on.
The other mistake that has been made is that some "news" sites have been reporting the school as Russellville High School. It is not, again simple research would have fixed this problem but the sites chose not to do any research and went with it.
This is a microcosm of the larger problem in with "news" organizations. Instead of doing the research needed into a potential story in order to make sure that that story is accurate too many organizations just want to break the story out there so they go with it as it is.
One example on the national side that comes to mind is the Tiger Woods accident. When it first broke it was reported that he was involved in a two car accident and was in very serious condition at the hospital. All of this was being reported AFTER he had already been released from the hospital with scrapes and bruises (reportedly at the hands of his wife not the accident though this has never been confirmed either).