The problem with “instant” news

What we know is that we really don’t know much at all about what happened today at the US Navy Base near DC — except that people have died — perhaps including an individual identified as the “shooter”.

With all the not knowing, one thing we can all bet on, is that the crazies and religiously insane are going to use the dead bodies as props for their own crazy agenda.

At times like this it is perhaps wise to sit back — and wait until we get the whole story.

The LA Times seems to have reporters on the ground who might have a better idea about what is happening. The key to understand what happened is for the REAL reporters to go out and talk to eye witnesses. It isn’t surprising that eye witnesses have reported more than one shooter. Remember also that eye witnesses are often wrong or mistaken — emotions take over and people tend not to be very accurate.

Surveys show that most jurors place heavy weight on eyewitness testimony when deciding whether a suspect is guilty. But although eyewitness reports are sometimes accurate, jurors should not accept them uncritically because of the many factors that can bias such reports. For example, jurors tend to give more weight to the testimony of eyewitnesses who report that they are very sure about their identifications even though most studies indicate that highly confident eyewitnesses are generally only slightly more accurate—and sometimes no more so—than those who are less confident. In addition to educating jurors about the uncertainties surrounding eyewitness testimony, adhering to specific rules for the process of identifying suspects can make that testimony more accurate.

My heart goes out to the families of the victims of today’s rampage. Any other speculation without facts is merely gossip — which seems to be the only function of the instant news networks and their army of talking heads.

Watch out for the “instant experts” — the case that always comes to mind is the “psychologist” who did an on-air hatchet job of Richard Jewell — who was in fact the hero of the Atlanta bombing — he saw a suspicious bag and got people out of the area before the bomb went off — he was doing his job. But the FBI wimps went after Mr. Jewel and his mothers. The Instant News networks never learned from that glaring “mistake”.

Jewell alerted police and helped to evacuate the area before the bomb exploded, saving many people from injury or death. Initially hailed by the media as a hero, Jewell was later considered a suspect. Jewell’s case is considered an example of the damage that can be done by reporting based on unreliable or incomplete information.[2]

Despite never being officially charged, he underwent a “trial by media” with great toll on his personal and professional life. Eventually he was completely exonerated and Eric Robert Rudolph was later found to have been the bomber.[3][4] In 2006, Governor Sonny Perdue publicly thanked Jewell on behalf of the state of Georgia for saving the lives of those at the Olympics.[5]

Update 2:30 Pacific time:

CBS & NBC retract reports — twitters.

Gawker.com says to ignore Breaking news — sad/funny commentary of the time we live in.

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