The network learns the hard way that being right is way, way better than being first.
Talk about crying Wolf: As the Supreme Court's Affordable Care Act decision came down this morning, CNN was eager to report the ruling that the country has been anticipating for months. So eager, unfortunately, that the network didn't read the entire decision before reporting it, live, to that country.
The gun-jump seems to be a case of adrenaline run amok. According to CNN, the network's dedicated Supreme Court producer, Bill Mears, read the first section of the ruling, which declared that the individual mandate "is not a valid exercise of the Constitution's Commerce clause." (As CNN's Jeffrey Toobin later put it of Mears: "He basically adopted, in its entirety, the arguments of the challengers of the law.")
Though of course the rest of the ruling would go on to clarify the majority's overall opinion -- which upholds the ACA as a tax -- CNN rolled with that first impression. On air and online.
On its website, it added a banner headline:
And on its air, it announced, "it appears as if the justices have struck down the individual mandate -- the centerpiece of the healthcare legislation."
This announcement was accompanied by an even less nuanced headline: SUPREME CT. KILLS INDIVIDUAL MANDATE. Here's the video, via Buzzfeed:
Oof. Still, you really have to feel for CNN: In a breaking news situation, the adrenaline pumps, and the sense of competition and come-on-guys-let's-be-first-ness can easily overcome the much more pressing need for thoroughness and, above all, accuracy. It's incredibly hard, I'm sure, to parse a relatively dense legal decision, under all the pressures of LIVE! TV, with an entirely clear head. You're looking for the headline, for the one phrase that will sum up the decision; your search for simplicity, however, can defeat its own purpose in a situation that's full of nuance.