October 2014
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When should Web news slow down?

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One of the thousands of journalistic growing pains associated with online news is the urge to “go live” with news reports too quickly – before they’re verified, and in some notable cases, before they’re true.

Such was the case Thursday night, when the Web positively buzzed with word of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden’s death. The Washington Post even posted a retrospective slideshow of the coach’s life and career. Wikipedia was “updated” with Wooden’s death 10 times in a matter of minutes.

Problem was, the 99-year-old Wooden was not dead.

In fact, Wooden did not die until Friday night – 24 hours later.

I see examples of such a rush to print every day, locally and in the larger world. The immediacy of the Internet has great potential, and power. But only if news outlets hold fast to their journalistic principles of accuracy – of verifying stories before they are put into publication, be that publication on the Web or in print or over the airwaves. You as consumers should demand nothing less. We as journalists should commit ourselves to nothing less.

Sherry Devlin

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