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CNN, Fox, NPR reported SCOTUS' healthcare ruling wrong, the media learns a lesson

Posted By GABRIELLE LEVY, UPI.com   |   June 28, 2012 at 6:30 PM   |   Comments

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June 28 (UPI) -- Were you watching for the Supreme Court decision this morning on the Affordable Healthcare Act? Did you, for a few minutes, think the nation's highest court had indeed struck down the controversial law?

By now you've heard that the Supreme Court actually upheld Obama's signature legislation, almost in its entirety. But if you were tuned into CNN, FOX, or NPR, or checking the Twitter feeds or websites of the Huffington Post or TIME, it would be understandable if you were confused.

These major news organizations, and perhaps others, all initially reported that Supreme Court had struck down the law known as "Obamacare."

Even President Obama apparently believed the law had been overturned. ABC reports that, according to senior officials, Obama was standing outside the Oval Office, where a television showed a split screen of four major networks, and saw the erroneous initial reports from both FOX and CNN.

"Senior administration officials say the president was calm," Jack Tapper writes for ABC.

"A couple minutes later, White House counsel Kathy Ruemmler came to Outer Oval and gave him two thumbs-up. Ruemmler had gotten the correct information from a White House lawyer at the Supreme Court and from SCOTUSblog.com.

“'The Affordable Care Act has been upheld by the court,' Ruemmler told the president, a senior administration official recalled. 'There were five votes finding it valid under Congress’s taxing power.'”

Although a few reporters and networks ended up with egg on their face--and perhaps gave the president a minor heart attack--the real lesson comes for everyone in the news business.

Jumping the gun and faulty reporting are hardly new: in fact, many people were sharing the famous "Dewey defeats Truman" photo, possibly the most infamous "oops" news moment, to their friends online. And a photoshopped version (created by photographer Gary He) quickly popped up online, showing superimposed a smiling Obama holding an iPad with CNN's incorrect headline over the original United Press image.

But what's different in 2012 than it was in 1948 is the pressure on news organizations to get breaking news out first, and faster than everyone else. At its peak, at 10:17 a.m., more than 13,000 tweets about the Supreme Court decision per minute were flying, and many of them were simply wrong.

News organizations keep a close eye to others, rather than doing totally independent reporting. It's certainly a reminder to the news media to confirm information before simply passing it on to followers in the name of expediency.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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