Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The first-day story is never the whole story

I am printing the following article that Fred just sent me in its entirety because I think it pertains to my previous blog about the news.  It may not just be where we get our news, but it may be how patient we are to allow the truth to emerge.

One lesson from the Smollett investigation

The first-day story is never the whole story.
That’s one of the most important lessons I’ve learned as both a journalist and a consumer of news, and it’s one I repeat whenever I’m tempted to pop off too quickly about the latest public outrage.

The first-day story is never the whole story.
The first-day story is never the whole story.
The first-day story is never the whole story.

In other words, when it comes to significant events, and even to ones that don’t seem to matter much, there’s always more going on than initial reports contain. Facts take time to emerge. They take time to find. If you want the truth, you need to wait. 

We’re now on the umpteenth day of the Jussie Smollett story, with its twists and turns, its mysteries within mysteries, and we still don’t know what happened. I’ve got a hunch. You’ve got a hunch. Everybody’s got hunches. Hunches are not facts.

Fact: Smollett, a star of the TV show “Empire,” who happens to be black and gay, reported that he was beaten up on Jan. 29, in the depths of a freezing Chicago night, by two masked men shouting slurs and wearing Trump-style MAGA hats.

Fact: The Chicago Police Department reported that it was investigating the alleged incident as a potential hate crime.

Fact: The news media exist to report news, and both of the facts above are news. The media have continued to report on the incident even as murky information surfaces to cast doubt on Smollett’s

Also a fact? The media are not an “it.” They’re a “they,” plural, many outlets that report in different ways, some more reliable than others. The Tribune is on the cautious end of the spectrum, which is why it hasn’t reported every anonymously sourced claim racing around Twitter in the guise of truth. Some of those claims may be proved true, but until they are, they remain in the foggy land of rumor and speculation, and the savvy news consumer will
withhold judgment.

Learning to withhold judgment until all the critical facts are in is hard. Few of us have mastered such restraint. We’re eager to show how smart we are, how informed and instinctive, how concerned we are about truth and justice. Many of us think of ourselves as super sleuths, able to deduce what even the experts can’t. We’re looking for the approval of our peers, we stand at the ready to
fight the enemy. But rushing to judgment in complicated news stories is like rushing unequipped into a fire. You risk getting

If you’re old enough to remember the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, you’ll remember how many people, some of them famous and important, immediately concluded it was the work of Islamic terrorists. It wasn’t.

After the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, speculation ran rampant in the media and among the public that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was the mastermind. He wasn’t.

In 2017, after a man shot and killed 59 people at a country music concert in Las Vegas, social media exploded with claims that the gunman was a rabid liberal who despised Donald Trump. Wrong. Again.

Over time, facts emerged, stories changed, opinions shifted.
The attack against Jussie Smollett may not have happened the way he claimed, but that’s not to say it couldn’t have, and whatever happened that night, certain things are true: Hate crimes are real. Black people and gay people are among those who are discriminated against every day. Anyone who doubts it has only to look at the racist, homophobic hate-mongering that has sprung
up in response to Smollett’s story.

Did Smollett lie? I don’t know. Neither do you. Yet. Because, as surely as it might have happened the way he claims, the fact that it might have doesn’t mean it did. If it turns out he lied, he’s done damage that he should be held to account for. But that’s still an “if,”
and if is not a fact. 

For now, the wise news consumer will continue to watch and wait.
The truth is likely to be revealed soon, and before long the story will fade from public view. But another will come along quickly that tests our commitment to the truth. When it does, pause. Take a deep breath. Repeat:

The first-day story is never the whole story.

Twitter @MarySchmich


Glorita Jucá said...

I read your 8 posts today and was, as always, in awe of your sensitiveness about things that matter to our understanding of human beings and their idiosyncrasies, and also of yousr indefatigable curiosity about the world and its misteries. Congrats, sis, your posts are precious. Keep them coming! Give my regards to the Hickmans and friends.

nanwebware said...

So glad you are enjoying our conversations. I wish you could be here to participate- your brilliant mind would be a big contribution. Love you tons.