For about 15 minutes, ObamaCare had been ruled unconstitutional. At least, that’s what those watching CNN on June 28 were being told. Then, on further review, the network changed its mind. ObamaCare lived, albeit in a Supreme Court-edited form.
Oh, well. In our hyper-connected world, anyone can get things wrong in the heat of the moment. This was merely a Supreme Court case that will affect the future of about a fifth of the nation’s GDP. It’s not as if the network misreported something important, such as where Wolf Blitzer was when he found out Osama bin Laden had been killed. (In his kitchen, apparently).
CNN’s misstep neatly highlights an important feature of 21st century life.
For most of human existence, information was a specialty good. It was expensive and difficult to come by. For example, Andrew Jackson earned fame for winning the Battle of New Orleans after the treaty ending the War of 1812 had been signed at Ghent, Belgium. But how could Jackson have known the war was over, since information took weeks to cross the Atlantic?
Throughout history, generals and admirals have won or lost battles because of a lack of information. This continues right up to modern times: The Japanese enjoyed a successful attack on Pearl Harbor because the Americans had no idea they were coming. But just a few months later, the U.S. had broken the Japanese secret code. That information was key to American victory in the Battle of Midway.
Today, however, information is a commodity. We want it to be everywhere and instantly available to everyone. And for the most part, it is -- if you know where to look. Even as CNN was racing to get incorrect information about the Supreme Court ruling on the air, for example, SCOTUSblog took longer to report anything, but ended up getting the information right. The blog’s experienced reporters and court-watchers knew not to jump at Chief Justice Roberts’ Commerce Clause head fake.