In the hours following the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords on January 8, NPR News made a tragic situation even worse by erroneously reporting her death in one of their hourly newscasts. The error was corrected shortly thereafter but the damage was done.
Alicia Shepard, NPR’s Ombudsman, posted a revealing article about the chain of events leading up to this error, and the aftermath, in her blog today. I think it’s worth a look to see how NPR operates in these kinds of situations. It’s also a strong argument for having an ombudsman, sometimes also called a “public editor,” in a news organization. NPR is among the very few broadcast or cable news organizations that have one, to the network’s credit.
I hope NPR News tightens its policies about sources to use in these kinds of situations, as Alicia recommends.