CNN.com screenshot

CNN.com screenshot Credit: CNN.com screenshot

The rush to be first led two news networks -- CNN and Fox News -- to erroneously report Thursday that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the individual mandate in President Barack Obama's health care law.

The court upheld most of the law, including its key provision -- the individual mandate.

In the minutes after the court issued its decision, CNN reporter Kate Bolduan said on air that the individual mandate was struck down, prompting anchor Wolf Blitzer to discuss the decision's impact. John King, CNN's chief national correspondent, offered analysis, calling the court's decision a "dramatic blow" to the president, only to reverse himself a few minutes later, saying it's a "huge victory."

"Speed is always the enemy of accuracy," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism in Washington, D.C.

This is not the first time errors have been committed by news organizations. Remember the Chicago Tribune's inaccurate headline "Dewey Defeats Truman" in 1948. When Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was shot on Jan. 8, 2011, several major news organizations incorrectly reported that she was dead.

In today's digital age, however, blunders spread wider and quicker. Thursday, CNN made the mistake on air, online, on Twitter and by email.

At Fox News, Bill Hemmer made a similar error. Within 10 minutes, both networks had fixed their mistakes.

It appeared CNN jump-started its coverage based on initial, but incomplete, written comments from Chief Justice John Roberts. The court said the individual mandate wasn't constitutional under the Commerce clause and went on to say it was constitutional as a tax.

The Supreme Court, Rosenstiel noted, is a deliberative body that wants to explain its decisions, which are often complex. In this instant news era, he said, media are pressured to be out front.

CNN apologized for its mistake. Fox News, however, dismissed its error.

With Verne Gay

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