Media spreads false 'mass grave' report, Will Reuters Correct?

iMediaEthics publishes international media ethics news stories and investigations into journalism ethics lapses.


Home » Hoax»

Confirm before you tweet! The NYTimes and Reuters both reported the news that a mass grave was found in Texas. But, the initial reports turned out to be false and no mass grave was found. (Credit: Twitter)

Several news outlets falsely reported that police had found up to 30 bodies buried on a property in Liberty County, Texas, last week. The mass grave news was revealed as a hoax after police found nothing suspicious on the property that had allegedly contained the bodies.

The inaccurate reporting should serve as a reminder to the media to confirm stories before reporting, according to NPR’s Mark Memmott’s June 8 blogpost.  “Even in this age of intense competition and instant reporting, it’s important for news outlets to remember that they should stick to what they know, not what they think on stories like this,” Memmott wrote.

Memmott noted that several news outlets re-reported the story before confirming its accuracy. For example, Houston, Texas NBC-affiliate KRPC-TV tweeted:  “Breaking News in Liberty County where dozens of bodies have been found near Daisetta.”  KPRC also ran the story on a 5 p.m. newscast, but began to “pull back” coverage within an hour after realizing that the story “seemed it was overblown or that there was a report that was unfounded,” its news director Deborah Collura told the Houston Chronicle.

National news media also picked up the story apparently without any verification.  Reuters’ June 7 report, taken from “local media,” stated “Texas authorities find up to 30 bodies.” iMediaEthics notes that Reuters has not corrected that story.  We have written to Reuters seeking a correction and will update with any response.

And The New York Times tweeted based on Reuters’ report:  “NYT NEWS ALERT: Up to 30 Dismembered Bodies Found Near Houston, Reuters Reports.”

Both The New York Times and Reuters later reported that police had found nothing on the property in question.

Submit a tip / Report a problem

Media spreads false ‘mass grave’ report, Will Reuters Correct?

Share this article: