On the afternoon of April 17, around the time AP, CNN, The Boston Globe and other professional news outlets were claiming suspects had been arrested or were about to be, I took note of what the anchors on local Boston-area TV stations were saying:
WCVB: "I'm seeing the same tweets you're seeing"
WBZ anchor Jack Williams: "We want to clarify so people understand: We're quoting sources, who are quoting sources."
Williams: "Let me speculate out loud as we try to figure out what in the world is happening here."
Williams: "If you don't mind, let me speculate a little more, Paula"
Williams: "We haven't confirmed everything yet. But something has happened."
On Friday, when the city was effectively locked down, speculation and misinformation was joined by over-reporting of operational details. I saw one of the local stations showing a street address in Watertown that police were investigating, while the studio anchor quizzed the on-scene reporter about the position of snipers. This was after the Boston and State police had requested media not to divulge details that might endanger the lives of officers:
#MediaAlert: WARNING: Do Not Compromise Officer Safety by Broadcasting Tactical Positions of Homes Being Searched.— Boston Police Dept. (@Boston_Police) April 19, 2013
Is it any wonder that people have a tough time trusting professional news organizations?