President Obama’s healthcare initiative, and especially the personal mandate, has been cause of much discussion in the US in the fifteen months since it was passed into legislation. Yesterday, the Supreme Court upheld that the legislation was legal under the US Constitution, but that didn’t stop both CNN and the conservative mouthpiece Fox News from publishing headlines that the individual mandate was struck down.
It is not uncommon for news organisations to write stories ahead of time, one story for each likely outcome, but for such an important decision that will have a deep impact on the upcoming US presidential election – itchy trigger fingers should have been kept better in check. The Supreme Court’s decision may have been slightly confusing in that they struck down the “commerce clause” as unconstitutional, but let the law stand as a tax – but news organisations should have understood the difference.
For it’s mistake, CNN was lambasted across the twittersphere, with “CNN” becoming a trending topic for all the wrong reasons. The did, however, correct and apologise for the mistake after a long 13 minutes:
Correction: The Supreme Court backs all parts of President Obama’s health care law. http://t.co/99U629Cp
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) June 28, 2012
More concerning is that the false information also published by Fox News, the most popular news network in the US, was mostly ignored by a population – a point raised by Reuters columnist Felix Salmon:
What's interesting to me is less that Fox News got it wrong, and more that no one seems to care about that. pic.twitter.com/LoVi8r2s
— felix salmon (@felixsalmon) June 28, 2012
We may be in an era of 24 hour news with digital publishing meaning that it is important for news organisations to get on top of stories quickly, but accuracy is still key.