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Media Needs to Show Responsibility in Reporting

Location: Washington, DC

MEDIA NEEDS TO SHOW RESPONSIBILITY IN REPORTING -- (House of Representatives - May 17, 2005)

(Mr. PITTS asked and was given permission to address the House for 1 minute and to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. PITTS. Madam Speaker, "Newsweek" last night finally retracted a story that had deadly consequences. The incident underscores how high the stakes are for the news media. There is a prestige for organizations to get the story first. But that prestige often trumps factual reporting of issues. And the "gotcha" factor is often the motivation for running stories that are not as well researched as they could or should be. It is the "gotcha" bias that leads to shoddy reporting. This may be fine when they are covering the Michael Jackson case.

The problem with the War on Terror reporting is that terrorists are watching. When stories are reported here that fit their PR plan, terrorists use them to incite violence and hatred around the world. In the very next news cycle, their response can be heard. That means that mistakes are very costly and the damage done is outrageous.

In this case "Newsweek's" mistake cost the lives of 17 people in riots in Afghanistan and set back the cause of democracy there. This is inexcusable and irresponsible. And while it is good that Newsweek issued a correction, they should lead the way in setting a higher standard of reporting in the first place, particularly when we are talking life and death, war and peace.

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