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Media's five biggest turning points in 2012

Television trucks and traffic crowd a memorial on Dec. 17 in Newtown, Conn. After the mass killing on Dec. 14, much of what was reported for hours by major news outlets was completely wrong, including the name of the shooter and links to Sandy Hook Elementary.

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Television trucks and traffic crowd a memorial on Dec. 17 in Newtown, Conn. After the mass killing on Dec. 14, much of what was reported for hours by major news outlets was completely wrong, including the name of the shooter and links to Sandy Hook Elementary.

From the killing of an unarmed African-American teen in a Sanford subdivision to the results of an election that confounded major segments of the nation's conservative media, the biggest turning points for media in 2012 just happened to be the biggest turning points for us all.

Here's my list of the five biggest turning points for media in 2012. (Try not to make too much of the fact that two of them are connected to Florida!)

Media Get Too Much Wrong in Newtown: On Dec. 14, when a gunman killed 20 children, six adults and himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., after earlier killing his mother, much of what was reported for hours by major news outlets was wrong.

The shooter wasn't 24-year-old Ryan Lanza, but his 20-year-old brother, Adam. The killer's father wasn't shot in New Jersey, but his mother, Nancy Lanza, was killed in Connecticut. Nancy Lanza didn't teach at Sandy Hook Elementary, and Adam Lanza didn't target one of her classes there.

Some experts say such mistakes are the expected price for the immediacy of social media-drenched journalism. But it has always been easier to succeed by disregarding journalism rules; such moves also sacrifice long-term credibility for a short-term audience.

Fox News' Election Night Meltdown: Watching conservative political mastermind Karl Rove forced by the voting analysts at cable news channel Fox News to concede that President Barack Obama won in Ohio, you sensed a corner turned.

For months, an array of conservative media outlets, pundits and news sources had been assuring their audiences of Republican victories Nov. 6. When that didn't happen, media figures and the GOP itself were forced to consider that their ideology had become so impervious to outside facts, it was trapped in its own bubble of unreality.

Newspapers and Magazines Retrench, Curbing the Era of Free News: The decision by New Orleans' Times-Picayune newspaper to cut staff, focus on its online platforms and restrict its print run to three days in most weeks was one of the most-visible examples of an unwelcome trend. Newsweek also announced plans to end print publication this year, while Mashable notes the number of newspapers with paywalls limiting their free content online doubled in the past year.

The result: fewer journalists in print and less free news on the Internet.

Trayvon Martin Case Bursts Open Racial Divides in Media: By the end of March, the Feb. 26 shooting death of Martin, an unarmed black teen, had become the year's second most-covered news story, seriously dividing media.

Anchors on left-leaning MSNBC wore hoodies on air as PoliticsNation host Al Sharpton also served as spokesman for Martin's family in its quest to see shooter George Zimmerman prosecuted. And online outlets such as the Daily Caller and Business Insider published photos and tweets taken from the dead teen's social media accounts that made him look thuggish.

Mitt Romney's 47 Percent Video: More than anything in media, this video, secretly recorded at a fundraiser in Boca Raton, may have crippled GOP candidate Mitt Romney's presidential effort. Posted by liberal newsmagazine Mother Jones in September, it revealed the multimillionaire telling a roomful of wealthy patrons that 47 percent of the country would vote for Obama because they felt "entitled" to things like health care, food and housing.

As proof fate isn't without irony, consider the final figures on Romney's percentage of the popular vote:

47 percent.

Eric Deggans can be reached at edeggans@tampabay.com.

Media's five biggest turning points in 2012 12/29/12 [Last modified: Saturday, December 29, 2012 3:30am]

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