Is speculation breaking news?

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Following the attrocities in Norway, the media went into speculation overdrive. Armed with very few facts but clearly fearful of silence in a time of breaking news, and keen to get something up – whether true or not – many began to flood Twitter and 24 hour rolling news channels with unconfirmed reports and speculation.

The Sun‘s first edition yesterday saw the paper brand the awful events an “Al-Qaeda Massacre” and liken it to the attacks in the US on the World Trade Centre.

Importantly, at the time The Sun went to the presses there was no confirmation that Al-Qaeda or any Islamist group was responsible – nor was there any evidence to support the connection The Sun was making. And now, with a suspect under arrest who has reportedly admitted carrying out the attacks, it appears this knee-jerk tendency in some quarters of the UK media to stoke anti-Islamic fears at every opportunity may have been well wide of the mark.

The Independent

It perhaps speaks volumes too of how quickly the Independent  even jumped to its own conclusions that it chose to deploy its religious affairs correspondent within minutes of the explosion in Oslo to produce an “analysis” (a word which might normally signal an expectation of some facts).

That paper’s article began:

“As of yet there has been no claim of responsibility as to who might have carried out today’s bomb blast… but suspicions will inevitably fall on Islamist militants…”

Such a sentiment very quickly proved to be a self-fulfilling prophecy as what followed was a string of facts, coincidences and opinions unrelated to events in Norway packaged up with some rent-a-quote “expert” comment and positioned as encouragement to Independent readers to consider Islamists the likeliest perpetrators.

Defending his article on Twitter, the journalist behind the Independent‘s hasty analysis admitted “it is speculation but legitimate” before adding: “The public want to know who might be behind an attack, so we give them our best educated guess.”

I honestly have no idea how the public’s hunger for facts can ever be well-served by an “educated guess” but sadly the belief that speculation can substitute for fact in such cirumstances is clearly widely held as these were not the only examples.


About jeromefox

'Frenglish' PR consultant. Love the creative, quirky, unusual. Anything to do with food & drink (wine, cocktails, spirits - NO VK/WKD and other rubbish allowed!!!). Will talk about anything but mostly travelling (the farther the better), sports, books & movies (oldies are the best!). Equally passionate about cultural differences & other languages. Thrive on extreme sensations and new experiences. Always a fan of challenging people and opinions.


One thought on “Is speculation breaking news?

  1. Gobsmacked. But not surprised.

    The news creators aren’t just coming across as unethical criminals, but also as people with agendas, who simplify/’dumb down’ the news and polarise/castigate communities, disregarding facts.

    An important blog post.

    Posted by coffeepapertrend | July 24, 2011, 9:06 pm

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