Monday, April 22, 2013

Mainstream media botched parts of Boston Bombers story, too

There's a lot of criticism right now of how Reddit, Twitter, and other social media platforms were responsible for spreading false information about the hunt for the bombers responsible for the Boston Marathon terrorist attack. I would like to use this post to remind people that the mainstream media had their own credibility problems during this affair.

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:

Is it any wonder that people have a tough time trusting professional news organizations?

Boston bombing TV coverage criticism

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