Lessons from Journalism Next as learned through Blarney Blowout

Nothing brings multimedia journalism to your attention like a nationwide story that tarnishes the reputation of your school. In the days following UMass’ now infamous ‘Blarney Blowout’, dozens of media outlets as far as Los Angeles and Dublin published stories about the event, all with varying amounts of accuracy. As new information was released that proved that UMass students had not been nearly as unruly as first reported, very few stories were updated with the proper information, leaving much of the public to think the worst of the students.

After spending nearly a day and a half reading these various articles, I began reading chapter 10 of Mark BriggsJournalism Next: A Practical Guide to Digital Reporting and Publishing.  It discussed some of the issues present in multimedia reporting, including the way in which wrong information is published. “From a practical standpoint, correcting every error that flashes on our Web site for even five minutes is a logistical nightmare,” explained Greg Brock, a senior editor at the New York Times, in the chapter. Many times, because of this nightmare and in part because of the pace at which most news is delivered and then forgotten about, corrections either go unnoticed or unmade.

While looking at this as a journalist it made sense. After all, changing an article can be difficult, so I cannot imagine having to do it on so many platforms with a large audience. However, after seeing it on the side of someone who has been affected by misinformation, I see the devastating effects that a few words can make. While the chapter stressed that facts should be true at all times in order to maintain credibility, being on the other end of misinformation reminds you of the collateral damage in the world that can be caused by simple wording.

Multimedia was not all bad, however, in the reporting of the incident. While students complained about one-sided reporting from main media outlets, comment sections allowed students to voice their opinion on the matter, something that had not been done in any of the stories. Briggs talked a lot about the ever popular comment section in chapter 10, and most of his observations were demonstrated in the comment section of popular websites. There were anything from poorly written insults calling students names, poorly worded comments from students (not helping the school’s reputation), and well-thought-out responses from both people for and against the event.

What the comment section did was provide a dialogue that would not be available without the feature. It gave students a chance to respond to the controversy, especially those that had not taken part in the event, and otherwise felt lumped in with those that were. Did these comments actually help change anyone’s mind? I’m not sure. But while you sit behind a computer screen, a comment makes you feel like you have a voice, when you previously felt that you didn’t.



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