Not necessarily the fault of the journalists, Peter. The instructions come from on high, as Bruno Masure says, from the bosses with their eyes riveted on audience share and the accountants glued to the bottom line. It's a very competitive world and it gets worse with every passing year. The pressure to be first with the news, particularly in the major agencies, is intense. When I began my career back in the 60s the unbreakable rule was that you had to have two sources saying the same thing before filing a report. Accuracy came before speed. But under pressure from the markets, which are only interested in whether an item of news will affect prices, the two-source rule was dropped. Then, again in the interests of speed and with the help of modern communications, the "second pair of eyes" rule was dropped and reporters now file directly to wire. This puts enormous pressure on the reporter to get it right and get it first. Until you've heard a major client screaming that he's lost 10 million quid because we were half a second behind the opposition with some item of news you can't appreciate just how much pressure there is. And yes, they do measure timings down to fractions of a second these days! The ever-mounting pressure and the constant stress that went with it was one of the reasons I retired early. My health came first.
Inevitably, in the race to be first with the news, you're going to cut corners, take chances, speculate when you don't have facts. We saw a lot of that (speculation) this month as reporters tried desperately to meet the demands to keep talking while waiting for something to happen.
A classic example of taking a chance and getting caught happened at a Monaco Grand Prix many years ago. As Jack Brabham went into the last corner of the last lap, a news agency filed an alert saying he'd won. He crashed on that last bend!
On the other hand, on another occasion, Eddy Merckx and Luis Ocana were battling through an epic rainstorm in the Pyrenees with overall victory in the Tour de France as the prize. Both fell. Merckx got up, Ocana didn't. I was listening to the radio commentator on his motorbike. A rival agency had a man on another motorbike right behind the two riders. I filed quoting the radio reporter. The rival agency man had left strict instructions that no-one was to write anything about the Tour except him. So his desk in Paris, which was also listening to the live broadcast, waited for him to contact them. And in the middle of a major storm in the Pyrenees in 1971 he wasn't about to get through to Paris. So I got a front page headline in France Soir and he never spoke to me again!