Slow Down, You Move to Fast, You’ve Got to Make the Credibility Last

All parents say that their kids grow up too fast. This isn’t true, of course. Parents live too fast, which is why one day your daughter is riding in the car seat and the next day she’s asking you for the keys.

I was going to resolve to slow down in 2006, which if you are in the modern media business is about as easy as explaining to your relatives what you do for a living. My own mother still thinks I’m a journalist even though my last newspaper column ran in 1998. 

Besides, I don’t care much for new years or New Years, especially New Year’s Resolutions. I mean, why do people wait 365 days before promising to make themselves better? If you are being a jerk in March, can’t you promise to stop being a jerk in April? Is New Year’s why Jack Abramoff waited until the ball dropped before copping his mea culpa? I shudder to think how many Native American tribes would have casinos right now if he confessed earlier.

Nevertheless, I am going to try to slow down and enjoy life, beginning with USC losing to Texas in the Rose Bowl (man, that was sweet). And it would be nice if the news media slowed down, too.

A Respect for Words
I don’t want to make blog fodder out of tragedy; I wasn’t there in West Virginia and I don’t know what really happened any more than the next notebook jockey. Besides, others already weighed in before I had time to add my own blather to the silicon soup (see, I’m already getting good at this slowing down thing.)

I will just say this: As we move into the New Year, I hope we have a greater respect for words. Technology has made it easy to use words at will, so easy that we sometimes forget their impact. Instant communication isn’t always better communication. Words can hurt as much as heal, yet we often hit the Submit or Send button without considering the consequences.

Is there anything you have written that you wish you could take back? Was speed more important than accuracy or civility?

Bring Back the Skeptics
Ask any relative of one of 12 miners who died this week whether speed was more important than certainty. Ask the pastor who told the little boy his daddy was coming home whether he wouldn’t have minded waiting a few more hours. Ask reporters who covered the story why they weren’t more skeptical, why they didn’t ask for details from state officials and verify the account before going to press or on air.

Of course we know the answers: Deadlines, dead air, and laziness. Congratulations news media, only three days into 2006 and your first major screw-up is already under your belt.

What we write, what we say, what we do as journalists and communicators matters. Sometimes it only matters to our peers or our clients, and sometimes it means the difference between elation and anguish. But it all matters – and it all lasts forever for future generations of Googlers to find and cry out, “what were they thinking back in 2006?”

Jan. 3, 2006, was a bad day, a terrible nightmare, and a chilling mistake that should give us all pause.

We have 360 days left in this New Year. Let’s make them good ones – we have plenty of time.

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