Speculation and fear-mongering: a short comparison of American and Canadian breaking news coverage

 
I’ve been listening to some Australian news coverage (← Australia’s ABC News livestream) of the just-finished hostage situation in downtown Sydney, Australia, this morning and was reminded of Al Jazeera’s short comparison of American and Canadian television reporting (embedded above) in the wake of the Parliament Hill shootings in Ottawa, Canada, earlier this year. The video is an eye-opening look at how much speculation and fear-mongering figure into American breaking news coverage.

On this subject, take a look at On The Media’s Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook. Here’s one of the program’s segments on why they made the handbook, and it’s well worth a listen. The handbook always seem to be right when you look back at breaking news coverage. Here are my three favorites, all of which applied in this case: “News outlets will get it wrong,” “There’s almost never a second shooter,” and “Don’t trust anonymous sources.”

Keeping that handbook in mind, my two favorite places to read breaking news are MetaFilter and Reddit (beware of Reddit detectives, by the way). In today’s case, both offered up-to-the-minute links to news reports and press conferences as they happened, as well as rumors getting passed around and debunking or critical analysis of the rumors. Reddit, also, usually has comments from people very close to the incident. Here’s the most active Reddit post (Here’s a comment that had news before most anywhere else; On The Media’s handbook applies. Here’s a comment that had information quickly with better source attribution. Here’s a comment from someone who was locked into a nearby library during the hostage situation.), a Reddit Live post (better than the active post for a distilled look at information as it becomes available), and the MetaFilter post (comments there are always at a higher level than anywhere else on the web). From those two sources, you can always find links to live streams from local news, by the way.

My other favorite source for breaking news, the New York Times’s Lede Blog, has ceased operation. The Times still periodically does live coverage of breaking news, though, often aggregating links to other news coverage of the event in question. In this case, I couldn’t find live coverage at the Times, though they did link to the Sydney Morning Herald’s live updates.

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