A Supreme Court Ruling and a Referendum on the Media

Much has been written about the seminal Supreme Court decision to uphold the Obama health care law. But perhaps less recognized was Thursday’s news gaffes —one which may go down as an even more pivotal turning point for American media.

Decades ago, the death and funeral of President Kennedy were true watersheds for live television news. In 1989, the Tiananmen standoff made CNN a real news force, while Michael Jackson’s death 20 years later gave Twitter news legitimacy.

But CNN and FOX News’ misreporting that the healthcare mandate had been overturned could be viewed as the moment that media legacy forfeited its monopoly on credibility.

It’s not like they didn’t know this ruling was a minefield. Bush v. Gore had set a precedent as to why you should never rush reporting a Supreme Court ruling. It’s like stepping in the puddle that you know is there — and yet they stepped right in, anyway.

This is why that fateful Thursday could be the end of news as we know it. That is, no more big names setting the agenda for what is right and good in journalism.

Those big brands of American journalism have long made their resources, expertise and credibility to get it right their last stand as to what separates them from everything else — from small papers such as this one, to startup news organizations to mommy bloggers.

And yet they stepped in the puddle that so many others do — the very alternatives to which they have held themselves superior, the very competition they say lacks their credibility.

But, needless to say, most of them got it right.

David Shuster, a former MSNBC anchor reported from of the grandiose plaza outside the Supreme Court, live online for a new venture called Take Action News. He proudly noted that while both CNN and FOX got it wrong, his team had taken the time to get it correctly — suggesting openly that if you want accuracy, turn off the networks and turn on Take Action News.

And, in many cases, that turning off has already begun. For while CNN was getting it wrong, the leaders of D.C. ‘legaldom’ gathered for a retreat outside town, where they weren’t even bothering with CNN. They had already been relying on their Supreme Court news from SCOTUSblog, the definitive blog site covering the Supreme Court, which reportedly had over a million hits on the day of the fateful decision.

This event certainly won’t be the end of the brand name networks, and this process has been underway for a while, but the fateful Thursday at the Supreme Court may come to be remembered as the day the “credibility superiority” claim finally came undone.

To update CNN’s most famous tag line, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it is now just one of the networks, blogs or other media of record. ?

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