Losing the noble art of fact checking

First it was the Boston Marathon bombings. Then it was a massive explosion in West, Texas at a fertilizer plant. Next, a campus police officer is shot, which turns out to be connected to those suspected in the bombings.
An earthquake in China kills over 100 people. Suspicious letters sent to elected officials including the President test positive for a deadly substance.
These tragedies, along with other heartbreaking and shocking events, soon swallow all of the media outlets. Who did it? Why? Where are they? How did this happen?
Questions from millions of different places fly at you. The chaos that ensues is all consuming. We do not understand how to process the information we receive. We weep for those affected by the attacks, hunt those responsible with a bloodlust like none other and silently shut our doors, locking them in fear that something equally as terrible may happen much closer to home.
These initial moments of countless emotions rushing to your head can be disorienting. But as journalists, we cannot let these emotions get the better of us.
At several points during the Boston Marathon bombing timeline, numerous media outlets reported incorrect information. At first someone was charged and in custody. But that was not true. The identities of those suspected were being talked about, even though little video or imagery of the events preceding the explosions were not yet being look at.
For the media to report inaccuracies is unforgivable, even in the day and age of the 24-hour news cycle. When will we start to understand that accuracy is paramount to the ‘exclusive, breaking news’?
I believe that some of the errors are due in large part to the always online, social network aspect. Facebook posts and tweets should not be considered reliable sources. Everything must be verified, more so for things put out by people who may know nothing about a situation. This does not mean we should not use Facebook and Twitter for what they are – forums.
We can easily find interesting events from the public, leads on stories unknown to others and reach out to those wanting to read our publications. But everything placed on these outlets must be taken with a grain of salt.
A lack of fact checking was also at play. In situations as sensitive as these, triple and even quadruple checking your facts are a necessity. Or the media and journalists will lose the one thing that matters the most – credibility.
I recently attended an Ethics Symposium held on campus that directly mentioned these topics above. From those speakers, my opinions on this subject have only been strengthened. As journalists, we give up many aspects about ourselves in order to uphold our duties of reporting factually sound and unbiased news.
If we are not fact checking our own work, then who is?