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CNN’s Sloppy On-Air Reporting

see it’s funny because popular media companies act like they’re paragons of virtue and yet…


So on the one hand CNN did exactly what people want them to do and looked into Monica Crowley’s plagiarism… and on the other we have CNN using footage from Fallout 4 in its coverage of Russian hacking.

The Story

The news network mistakenly used footage from Bethesda’s blockbuster game to report on a breaking story coming out of the US, concerning Russian hackers.


Footage of a Fallout 4 terminal appeared during a video which was aired late last month and was used during a segment discussing Donald Trump’s reaction to Moscow’s alleged involvement in “Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities.”



Well that’s problematic…

Why is it problematic?

Well, because using something like Fallout 4 footage in coverage of Russian hacking is sensationalist and distorts people’s understanding of the story… and when you’re broadcasting to millions of people even the tiniest bit of sensationalist content can cause very real problems.


The small problems are things like people thinking something happened that didn’t…

Or bad information leading them to support something they normally wouldn’t…

Or maybe somebody gets upset by something on the news and is an ass to people.

Those are annoying and can lead to some social friction (think about the people smugly talking about what they heard on MSNBC in the lunch room, like okay Greg, we get it) that’s uncomfortable but can be dealt with.

The big problem? Stress. Now there is something that isn’t easy to deal with.

Real World Consequences of Media’s Reporting

Stepping away from the television, computer screen or smartphone in the aftermath of terrorist attacks or mass shootings may be beneficial to your mental health. That’s the takeaway from a new study by UC Irvine researchers showing that six or more daily hours of exposure to media coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings in the week afterward was linked to more acute stress than having been at or near the marathon. Acute stress symptoms increased with each additional hour of bombing-related media exposure via television, social media, videos, print or radio.

“We were very surprised that repeated media exposure was so strongly associated with acute stress symptoms,” said E. Alison Holman, associate professor of nursing science at UC Irvine and the study’s lead author. “We suspect that there’s something about repeated exposure to violent images or sounds that keeps traumatic events alive and can prolong the stress response in vulnerable people. There is mounting evidence that live and video images of traumatic events can trigger flashbacks and encourage fear conditioning. If repeatedly viewing traumatic images reactivates fear or threat responses in the brain and promotes rumination, there could be serious health consequences.”


That kind of stress response sounds pretty similar to how the party in George Orwell’s 1984 used sensationalist reporting to stress the population into blindly supporting them.

While I’m not saying media companies have that kind of malicious intent at all… I do think it’s interesting that the real world consequences of news segments can sound so similar to a dystopian book. Fun!

But more seriously, the media’s sloppy sensationalist reporting hurts people in more ways than by just giving them bad information. Stress responses can hurt people physically and emotionally and that really isn’t something we want from a news channel is it…


No, not all news content is as stress causing as the Boston Marathon bombing. But some is… and nobody really stops to think about how our news system is actually working for people.

News companies are obsessed with getting the latest and biggest news they can get to drive ratings (for ad-sales $$$) so they don’t think outside of their own little world while consumers are too distracted to evaluate the whole system and instead generally just focus on pet peeves.

So… what I’m trying to say is that we should try to understand more about how the news system is actually working out in the real world. There’s more going on than just getting some shitty viewpoints from a news channel or getting incorrect information.

An Aside

Also, I’m not sure that using a screenshot from Fallout 4 for an unrelated bit on hacking is fair use. Sensationalist reporting and copyright infringement in one? Neato.

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