How 6 News Has Decided to Report On The Serial Shooter - WLNS TV 6 Lansing - Jackson | Your Local News Leader

How 6 News Has Decided to Report On The Serial Shooter

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The recent shootings along Michigan's roads and highways have many of us nervous, especially those of us who travel along the I-96 corridor to and from the Detroit area.

The seemingly random nature of the shootings, and the fact that the gunman remains at large, is no doubt heightening interest, in what is already a tense situation.

Those of us covering the shootings--like everyone else, are watching the story unfold, with concern.

We hope the person responsible is caught as quickly as possible, and we are eager to help law enforcement in any way we can, to keep us all safe.

But perhaps our biggest responsibility in covering a story like this-- is first and foremost, to make sure we are accurately reporting the facts as they develop.

It is a big responsibility, and we take it seriously.

***

Sometimes as a journalist, I wish these stories were labeled "Handle With Care."

But they're not.

Many times we're covering complex stories, with many different people affected.

And that's why here at 6 News, we take the appropriate steps on-air and online, to make sure you are getting accurate information, and we report it carefully, so you can make your own judgments and decisions.

We sift through a lot of information everyday that just isn't true.

Thankfully, it never makes it on TV or online.   

That's because when we hear of any incidents over a police scanner, over the phone, or online through email, Facebook or Twitter, we don't report it right away.

We work to confirm the information with authorities, and reputable sources.

We talk to police on the scene, or we call authorities until we get the answers we seek.

Once we're confident we have accurate information, we will discuss how to present the story, then we will report it on air and online.

We'll tell you what we know, and what we don't know yet, and we'll cite our sources, to let you know who is telling us what.

When producers, reporters or anchors skip this critical process, especially in high interest stories that directly affect public safety, it's irresponsible, and dangerous.

It unnecessarily excites, and many times, scares people.

It also angers law enforcement officials, and disrupts their investigations to catch the bad guys.

Reporting information that turns out to be false makes everyone look bad.

***

Sometimes perspective is just as important as the facts themselves. It's important that we keep in mind that while two dozen drivers have been shot at over the past few weeks, literally thousands of drivers travel safely along the I-96 corridor everyday.

We want to inform you, not scare you into isolation.

Unfortunately, during this series of shootings, several TV stations have reported rumors, and information that later tuned out to be incorrect.

One station first reported a possible shooting or capture of the shooter, but once all the facts were known, it turned out to be an unrelated case of road rage.

Another reported a possible shooting that turned out to be a police officer shooting at a deer.

In our line of work, it seems everybody wants to get new information on the air the fastest.

Stations compete for viewers, and reporters and anchors want to be recognized for their efforts.

But those realities must never replace our primary responsibility as journalists to seek the truth, and report it, to minimize harm, and to be accountable for what we say.   

When we hear of any developments in this string of shootings, you will hear it from us, but only after we have completed all of the necessary steps to make sure what your hearing and watching is accurate.

That is our mission and promise to you.

Thanks for watching and trusting us to get it right.         

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