Milberg's Musings: A Bath Salts Soaking
Updated On: Jun 28 2012 11:34:55 AM EDT
So it looks like we had an exclusive.
We were feeling like the only news organization in the galaxy that did not link Rudy Eugene's incomprehensibly vicious, naked, frenzied, face-chewing attack and the synthetic psychosis-inducing street drug called "bath salts." And now, with the toxicology results showing nothing but traces of marijuana in his system, turns out our news judgment was spot on.
Our collective newsroom reaction when those results finally came in? Somewhere between high-fives for taking the high road and a collective sigh of relief.
There was never a doubt that we should not - and do not - report unconfirmed speculation. But for the last month, every time we watched competing news organizations and national cable stations spin stories about bath salts and sources and experts and convincing ties to Eugene and his crime, we wondered whether our restraint would, in the end, be appreciated.
After all, what good is being first, when first is wrong? The credibility that takes time to build can go away in one wrong report.
To be sure, all news outlets feel an immense pressure to serve their audiences well, and to keep those audiences intact and coming back. That competition, or rather that competitive newsroom nature, fuels a daily drive to find new and compelling angles to report. And that drive can be a drug that allows professional peer pressure to overtake crucial professional skepticism.
We talked about it. A lot. And we made the collective decision that, despite what any "experts" were reporting, no one could possibly know what drugs, if any, were in Rudy Eugene's system until the toxicology results were in. And they were not in, until now.
Our reporting also led to confirmation that Eugene was previously diagnosed as a schizophrenic. So, that might be a piece of the puzzle, an explanation of inexplicable behavior that, for a month, so many newsrooms felt compelled to be explaining.
The truth is, we didn't know until now. And we made the difficult but correct decision to say we didn't know, until we did.
As for bath salts? I've used them, always in hot water. But I still prefer olive oil.
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