When tragedy hits I turn to “The Fourth Estate”….the news media. That’s what I have always relied on to find out the “real” story.  I get my local daily newspaper delivered every day. I go online to check news sources such as National Public Radio (NPR), The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CBS news online and more.

I love watching the 1976 movie “All the President’s Men” where Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein forced President Richard Nixon to resign through dogged research and fact checking. That is the strength of the news media. Good investigative reporting keeps our society honest.

But as the internet changes the way we gather information, the news media seems to be changing the rules of good reporting. The media cries out that we should pay for their online services in order for them to maintain a high reporting standard. They keep telling us that they should be our reliable source for news information. They assure us that they hire reporters who get the “true” facts that keep our system honest.

With the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy reporting “The Fourth Estate” certainly did not live up to any journalism standards. In their rush to get online first, all the biggest names in the media business, including The New York Times, National Public Radio and CBS News, faltered in the rush.

Wrong facts. Wrong names. It’s all wrong.  If the big guys get it wrong on these emerging stories, how can we believe anything they print?

Last night at 6pm I traveled through Newtown to attend my grandson’s winter concert at the Trumbull middle school. I saw police cars and media vans travelling the roads in and around Newtown as people tried to deal with the hand they were dealt. At 9pm, as we made our way back home through Newtown, the media vans were still there “reporting” from the front lawn of town hall.

What is the story they are going after? State police told the media that all information will be posted on the state police website and that there will only be one spokesperson for the team. The rules have been laid out but the media continues to get quotes from less than reliable sources like a former babysitter living in California.

Has the media become less reliable because we want the breaking news as it happens?  Are we demanding “play-by-play” reporting regardless of whether it is accurate?

Is the media giving us what we want because they need the ratings and the numbers in order to stay in business?

Whatever the answers, we need to be more discerning in what we consider “truth” in reporting. “The fourth Estate” is just another business not necessarily worthy of our trust.