The Berkeley shooting seems to have “put a finger on” the main problems with American media since the dawn of the internet.
Being fast, as opposed to being accurate, would be one issue, and sweeping poor examples of journalism under the rug while hoping the internet’s long memory will become so inundated with the next news story that news organizations can continue to employ incompetent reporters, being the other.
This was on full display Christmas Eve night when a Berkeley, Missouri, officer shot and killed Antonio Martin, an armed teen who appeared to pull a gun on the officer if you examine the “9” in the “Camera 29,” located in the upper lefthand corner of the image above.
While the image doesn’t prove the police officer’s story conclusively, it’s pretty compelling, especially since an independent investigation — Berkeley Police recused itself from the proceedings — located the weapon at the crime scene.
Nevertheless, that did not stop Huffington Post reporter Sebastian Murdock from seizing the opportunity to be fast and follow a left-leaning agenda in what was shoddy journalism work —by his own admission.
I was misled and made a foolish error. Thank you all for pointing this out. I am correcting the story to reflect as much.
— Sebastian Murdock (@SebastianMurdoc) December 24, 2014
Just what did Murdock, a “seasoned” Huffington Post journalist, do? Surely it was an upper level mistake — something that would fly over the heads of the layman, right?
He jumped on a tweet from a “Jesus Christo,” who claimed to be Antonio Martin’s best friend. The Twitter account holder issued a tweet claiming that he had “watched my best friend die right in front of me.”
Christo — and yes, I’m sure that isn’t his real name — implied that he had complied with police while Martin did not and that was the only reason he survived.
Going from Twitter and nothing else, Murdock instigated an “interview” with Christo through direct message only. He didn’t wait for the police statement, which immediately cast dispersions on Christo’s version of the Berkeley shooting (i.e. the “friend” with Antonio had fled the scene, he was not captured).
He didn’t ask for credentials or proof from Jesus Christo that he was actually there. He just did a back-and-forth with the prankster and included it in his story as fact. This later had to be “updated” with a “correction” at the bottom of the page, all evidence of incompetence cleanly removed from the post itself.
Journalists have made embarrassing blunders before. It happens all the time on the left and the right. It usually stems from a need for speed and an agenda.
Take Suzi Parker, for instance. The Arkansas-based journalist was crucified by conservative media for falsely reporting as fact that Sarah Palin was going to work for Al Jazeera America. Anyone who knows Palin and the words “Al Jazeera” would probably look for additional info to “confirm” this before putting it out as the truth.
Not Parker. She got the story from the Daily Currant, a satire website, and ran with it. (Mysteriously that was Parker’s last piece for the Washington Post, though she continues to write for Reuters, another “highly trusted” news organization, and has ironically contributed pieces to Al Jazeera America.)
On the right, most conservative media organizations were all too excited to support Cliven Bundy’s battle against the federal government. Then, they found out how crazy he actually was and backed slowly away from him with the hopes that people would forget the entire thing.
Parker’s screwup was just embarrassing, but in the Murdock Berkeley shooting affair, the errors in journalism could have poured more fuel on the fires of racial division and cost lives.
So, surely HuffPo would can Murdock, right? Sure, if by “can,” you mean allow him to continue posting stories. His latest ran just yesterday.
So the next time you find yourself believing something just because this organization or that organization reported it, remember Parker and Bundy and Sebastian Murdock’s Berkeley shooting foulup, and start demanding a little more accountability.