By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Jan 08, 2011 at 3:00 PM

We've heard the term "breaking news" overused by local and national outlets to cover something that's just plain news.

But the ongoing reports on cable news channels about the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords demonstrate the difficulties of providing accurate information as an event is happening.

A number of news services, NPR, Reuters and CNN among them, reported the death of Giffords in a shooting outside a Tucson grocery store this morning. As many as 18 people were reportedly hit in the shooting.

Then they started backing off after reports from a Tucson hospital that she was in surgery for a head wound.

As I write this, the congresswoman's fate is unclear and the story is still unfolding. The advice to follow in stories like this is simple: don't believe the first reports.

Although the instant news climate, with Twitter adding to its speed, this is nothing new, check out this video of ABC's coverage of the shooting of President Ronald Reagan 30 years ago as Frank Reynolds learns that the president had been shot, despite first reports that he was not wounded (about four minutes into this video):

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.