This week, I joined numerous journalists breaking the West plant explosion and Boston explosion by making many phone calls and by crawling through social media, localizing coverage in my area.
It seem like each time the news break. Outlets lose their minds and forget everything we learn as journalists, like the need to confirm facts using more than one source. Some cable news outlets really let us down in that area.
For instance, in the city of West, Texas a fertilizer plant exploded, many outlets began reporting that more than 60 to 70 people died. Today, I confirmed that only 12 people died, so far.
As journalists, we need to flex our muscles the way we were taught in J-school because it's times like this people depend on us.
When something breaks and we make mistakes (little or big), we're no better than the people who distribute fake images on Twitter and spread rumors on Facebook. We're better than this. That's why we wear the J on our chests.
We need to separate ourselves from the random blogger, Instagramers and wannabes who haven't studied ethical journalism.
With that said, there were many journalists who performed with excellence. Most notably, the reporters from the Waco-Tribune, who were on the ground in West.
As a journalist, a few practices and ideas were reinforced/learned this week for me.
1. Reporting a tragedy is never easy.
2. And it doesn't get any easier unless you become a heartless robot.
3. Breaking news gives you an adrenaline rush.
4. But never be in a rush to post or report first. You may get it wrong. (Looking at you AP, CNN, FOX, CBS.)
5. Engaging people on Twitter and Facebook can enhance reporting.
6. But don't trust everyone (not even other news outlets) and never grant anonymity.
7. Small papers can report bigger and better than our national big brothers.
8. Seek double and triple confirmation on each fact.
9. And then check those facts again.
10. Despite the backlash we get sometimes, real journalists will always be needed because we seek the truth, confirm the facts and help people understand why something happens. Bloggers and Instagramers fail in that respect.
11. Never begin a sentence with, "We don't want to speculate, but here's what could have happened."
12. It's takes courage to do this.
Let me know what you think.
Follow John Harden on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jdharden