Home > Uncategorized > NYTimes Article on School Shooting Hero Hoax SHOULD Reinforce Reporters’ Need to Follow Protocols Set By Schools

NYTimes Article on School Shooting Hero Hoax SHOULD Reinforce Reporters’ Need to Follow Protocols Set By Schools

July 2, 2019

An article by Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs in today’s NYTimes reports on a hoax perpetrated by a caller to a national news outlet who characterized his “heroic” deeds in an article that they published following a school shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas. Here’s the opening paragraphs of the article that describe the incident:

After last year’s mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas, a man calling himself David Briscoe described how he had heroically barricaded the door of the classroom he was teaching in and instructed students to lie down and cover their mouths as gunshots rang out nearby.

But the school district said Monday that the story was false, and no one by that name had ever worked for the school.

Multiple news organizations included quotations attributed to Mr. Briscoe after the May 2018 shooting that killed 10 and wounded 13. He said he was a substitute English teacher and that the massacre took place on only his third day teaching at the school.

The article describes the detailed accounts “Mr. Briscoe” provided of his role in the shooting and his continued efforts to get the media outlets to publish follow up articles. When a reporter for one of the media outlets starting looking into “Mr. Briscoe”, though, it appeared that there was no such person. The Superintendent of the school district offered a rationale for the media’s mistake:

The district’s superintendent, Leigh Wall, said on Monday that the apparent hoax was an example of how fast misinformation can spread, “especially when the amount of detailed information available is limited.”

I think the superintendent was being too kind in her assessment of the media. There was a time when newspapers, magazines, and other media outlets would accept the district’s request to hold off on reportage of an incident until all the facts were in and when they DID report on the incident they would cross-check their findings with the school district. This clearly did NOT happen in this school shooting… and because there is intense pressure to get the news FIRST, getting the news RIGHT takes a back seat. The result: a non-existent substitute teacher’s account of an incident gets impacted in the minds of readers before a factual account is reported.

At it’s root, this kind of reporting is the result of the need for profit which, in turn, leads to fast, sloppy, and cheap news coverage. Maybe it’s time for some media outlet to seek slow, accurate, and expensive reporting. It would cost the reader more money but ensure that WHAT is reported is verified.

%d bloggers like this: