Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five

Clinton's health another big challenge for the press

Hillary Clinton's health is going to be a big story this week and in weeks to come. The question: Is the press up to the challenge of reporting it responsibly?

The news of Clinton leaving a 9/11 event in New York City because she felt ill was reported on CNN during "Reliable Sources" Sunday in a segment that included me as one of the guests. And it offered a snapshot of two different approaches sure to be on further display in coming days.

Host Brian Stelter and I talked about different ways of covering it even as the story was breaking. The other guests in the conversation were CNN commentator Tara Setmayer and Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of "The Nation."

Fox News was the first outlet I saw on my smartphone while in the Green Room to report the story. Its report was based on law enforcement sources.

After the kind of misinformation law enforcement sources provided in the Boston Marathon bombing and other breaking news events since, I have come to approach them with great skepticism.

CNN, on the other hand, held off until it had a statement of confirmation from the Clinton camp and had senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny break in to "Reliable Sources" to report that. He was very careful not to go beyond what he had confirmed.

After the report, Stelter asked me what I thought, and I told him I am totally in favor of the route Zeleny and CNN took, especially on something as volatile as a candidate's health this close to an election.

I said I would have waited as well for confirmation or the video. I think such caution is totally warranted particularly in the overheated, partisan social media environment where a head cold is reported as a life threatening disease.

I said if you go with unnamed sources as Fox did, you better be right.

Video later appeared to show that Fox had the basics of Clinton's departure from the ceremony correct. But Fox was reporting in the piece I saw on the basis of anonymous law enforcement sources - not the video. I saw Fox get it wrong covering an alleged gun shot in Baltimore after the riots in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray.

I still hope the media will take the route CNN did Sunday morning. I don't think the getting it first was worth the risk. And I predict that path will be a dangerous one for those who travel it in coming days and weeks between now and November.

"Raw Story," which posted video of the segment on YouTube, headlined it, "Zurawik slams Fox."

I don't think I slammed anyone. But you can check out the video and judge for yourself.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad