In the early reporting of the Capital Gazette mass murder, Conor Berry, a reporter for a Massachusetts newspaper, The Republican, tweeted that the shooter had dropped his MAGA hat on the newsroom floor before opening fire.
It was a stupid remark, not to mention one for which Berry had no supporting facts, which he has since acknowledged. What makes such tweets particularly toxic is that they color early perceptions of these events, and tend to become urban legends and the stuff of conspiracy theories.
Berry’s tweet was similar to earlier instances such as cable talking heads speculating that other shooters were Tea Party members or radical right wingers before later being proved wrong. Only Berry’s tweet wasn’t presented as speculation.
Berry has since resigned as a result and tweeted his regret over the #fakenews incident.
Folks, My 21-year career as a “journalist,” a fancy term that makes my skin crawl, frankly, came to a screeching halt yesterday with one stupid, regrettable tweet. Can’t take it back; wish I could. My sincere apologies to all good, hardworking reporters and to POTUS supporters.
— CONOR BERRY (@CBerry413) June 29, 2018
In this case, the apology seems to have gotten more traction than the original tweet. Berry has taken the MAGA tweet down, but it can be found in archives on the Internet.
If reporters were a little less anxious to score political points at the expense of their ideological opponents and more concerned with reporting actual facts, situations like this could be avoided. But no one really expects that kind of sea change to happen any time soon.
©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.