The Role of the Media Statement
Read the following scenario:
You are a reporter for a popular online newspaper and you receive a tip in the morning from a
police officer that there is a potential terrorist threat scheduled for later in the afternoon at the
local mall. You confirm your source is, in fact, a police officer with the local police
department, but due to the nature of the tip, you feel it is urgent to release the information to
the public now and do not take the time to cross-check the information with other sources.
After publishing your story, you discover that the officer is in fact a disgruntled employee
who has released the story as a hoax. By the time you retract the story, you discover that
police officers have already been dispensed to the mall leaving limited police coverage for
other crimes and that the public is in a state of panic as the number of false police reports
regarding suspicious activity around the mall has increased.
In the aftermath of the incident you are tasked with explaining your decision to report the
story to the public.
Write a 1,050- to 1,400-word newspaper article, releasing a statement in which you do the
• Provide your rationale for the way you reported the incident.
• Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the media’s role in reporting terrorist activity.
• Discuss whether you could have handled the situation differently.
Correction on The Earlier Reported Story of Suspected Terrorist Activity at The Mall.
A story was recently published on our online news website that a potential terrorist
attack was bound to occur at the mall. The article was not initially subject to the high measure
of editorial inquiry that is a standard for all of our reporting. Upon proper review, it was
found that the article did not meet those standards and was taken down with immediate effect.
This error in judgment is lamentable, and the circumstances through which the story was
published are explained further.
On the morning of September 10, 2020, a tip came from a police officer of a potential
terrorist attack that was going to take place at the mall. Recognizing the urgency of the
matter, a story was immediately published to warn the general public and alert security
forces. It has since been brought to light that the story’s information was false and provided
under malicious intent. More information on the police officer who sent in the tip reveals that
he has been having personal problems with the force he is employed and made up the story of
a terrorist attack to get back at his employers.
At the time of receiving the story, the risk of not reporting it and risking danger to the
community outweighed decisions such as cross-checking several other sources to ascertain
that the threat was undeniably imminent. It was verified that the police officer who forwarded
the tip did indeed work at the local police and was not an imposter masquerading as an
officer of the law. This made it easy to go along and publish the warning because there was
no reason to doubt the source’s credibility. The nature of the information also sounded
believable, seeing as terrorism is a severe offense involving cross-border implications,
meaning that all sorts of precautions had to be taken. As such, not too many terrorism tips are
sent out aimlessly, and in the case that they are, it is advised that they are taken seriously. All
journalists must promptly release information that can be useful to the public, and for that
reason, the warning was disseminated with utmost urgency to avoid wasting any time that
could have made the situation worse. Understanding that under the fair report privilege where
reporting on state issues provided by an official source is encouraged, the story was published
to make sure the public was informed of any looming danger to their well-being (Berlik,
In hindsight, the pros and cons of covering terrorist activity have been emphasized
within the organization. Looking at the advantages, it is evident that covering stories on
terrorism can help prevent harm to people and infrastructure hence reducing the negative
impact that could occur as an effect. Reporting on terrorist activity helps assure that coverage
of potential attacks or activities assists in advancing a spirit of transparency between the
media and the public. Due to the sensitive nature of terrorism, offering quick and timely
information in the face of an impending threat is imperative. Thus the media has a
responsibility always to report information that has the potential of preserving lives and
communities. In the case of an ongoing threat, reporting on real-time information can reduce
public fear and ensure that most people and critical infrastructure can keep themselves safe
and assist law enforcement in enforcing order as they work to resolve the situation.
Recognizing that there are many benefits to briskly disseminating information on
terrorism, several shortcomings are associated with the nature of reporting terrorism sensitive
information. One of the most significant burdens on reporting about terrorism is the risk of
promoting propaganda, as can be seen in this case. The disgruntled police officer had a
vendetta to satisfy his point of view by purposefully rendering biased and misleading
information. This, in turn, led to confusion and embarrassment to both the media and the
local police department. Through reporting on sensitive matters such as terrorism, the media
also risk glamorizing a situation whereby their framing of events can have adverse effects.
Framing terrorism is said to be a critical aspect to keep in mind seeing as the agenda set by
the information disseminated can largely influence public perception in either a negative way
(Marthoz, 2017, pp. 34-39).
A notorious con to reporting on terrorism is inciting mass panic and hysteria. Once
the story had been received, it was seen that the members of the public were on high alert and
fear, which prompted several calls to the police reporting false sightings of suspicious activity
near the mall. Exposure to news stories on terror can increase fear about terror, and what they
perceive to be risks as a result of terror will also increase (Bergen & Lee, 2018, p. 51).
Reporting on terrorism without adequate facts can be seen to cause a detrimental
effect on law enforcement, where they may end up being spread thin in trying to resolve the
situation. While rushing to defuse the situation at the mall, most law enforcement personnel
were sent to the scene leaving other crime sensitive situations vulnerable. By reporting on
terrorism-related issues, there is a risk of inciting copycats who, in many cases, have been
inspired by the information they received from the media about these specific incidents. It is
clear that by publicly promoting a dangerous threat to people’s lives and the community at
large, there may be follow up incidences of individuals trying to enact similar threats.
The aftermath of the situation has shed some light on how reporting on sensitive
matters such as terrorism can be rectified. On realizing the gravity of the previously shared
warning, it would have been imperative to cross-reference with the local police department’s
head whether the information was indeed credible. It would have also helped reserve any
premature judgments towards the news from personal bias promoted by individual moralist
ideologies of saving lives and protecting the community. Carefully managing relations with
the authorities devoid of bias and generalizations would have helped make sure rush
conclusions were not made just because the source was a police officer. Law personnel is also
human and thus are prone to errors, which is why the information they provide has to be
cross-checked, and any relationship cultivated with members of the force has to be treated
To sum up, the unfortunate situation has shown the light to the gravity of how false
news can have detrimental effects on the people and communities who consume them. It is
highly despicable for an officer of the law to promote propaganda for their gain, knowing that
it could hurt the greater public. However, it is more shameful for those tasked with keeping
the public informed to disseminate sensitive information without verifying its validity.
Despite having a duty to protect human rights by keeping the public informed of relevant
news, it has also been seen to be a double-edged sword in that it can come at the cost of
causing mass hysteria and encouraging copycats. In retrospection, thorough verification with
other concerned parties would have prevented the damage caused, ensuring that no state
resources are wasted to ensure public safety following information they believed to be
credible. The article and all its supporting links have since been taken down, and the police
officer responsible for the false information has since been remanded. In this same spirit, we
apologize for all the inconvenience caused by the publication’s inadequacy in pursuing only
Bergan, D., & Lee, H. (2018). Media Literacy and Response to Terror News. Journal of
Media Literacy Education, 10(3), p. 51.