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EXPERT AVAILABLE: Media Miss the Mark on Mubarak, MU Expert Says

MU journalism expert believes media should recommit resources to cover Egyptian story accurately

Feb. 11, 2011

Story Contact(s):
Nathan Hurst, hurstn@missouri.edu, 573-882-6217

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – As the turmoil in Egypt continues with President Hosni Mubarak announcing his resignation, media covering the story found resolution today to a story they misreported yesterday. Leading up to an address by Mubarak to the Egyptian people, multiple media outlets reported on Thursday that Mubarak would announce his resignation and step down from his leadership position. Mubarak proved these reports false by saying he would not resign his post during his address yesterday. While Mubarak did eventually step down, Charles Davis, an associate professor of journalism studies at the Missouri School of Journalism, believes many of the journalists acted too hastily when reporting the story.

Charles Davis is an associate professor of journalism studies at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Charles Davis is an associate professor of journalism studies at the Missouri School of Journalism.

“It was a confusing day of conflicting reports that claimed its fair share of victims in the news media, most notably CBS,” Davis said. “The network reported midday that Mubarak was leaving — which is quite the journalistic feat given that only the president himself knew what he was going to say hours later.”

According to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, between Jan. 31 and Feb. 6, the Egyptian turmoil supplanted the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the January 2010 Haiti earthquake as the most widely covered international story of the past four years. Davis believes that despite the recent mishaps, the media coverage of Egypt has been positive, and blames much of the problem to an ever-advancing news cycle.

“After several days of stellar coverage, the attention span on the U.S. media moved on to the next story,” Davis said. “CNN’s London-based senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, has left the country, as has CNN’s star anchor, Anderson Cooper, as well as Katie Couric and Brian Williams.”

Davis says with all the big name news people leaving the story behind, it is important for media outlets to remain alert as the Egyptian events continue to unfold.

“The fortunate thing is that the situation ultimately resolved itself, and now, as we watch the celebration in Egypt, we are reminded of the importance of a vigilant international press,” he said.

Davis’ research focuses on access to governmental information and media law. He has published in law reviews and scholarly journals on many issues including federal and state freedom of information laws, libel law, privacy and broadcast regulation. He has earned a Sunshine Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his work in furthering freedom of information.

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