Clear Fog Blog

Political musings from Warren E. Peterson

The Media Bombs the Boston Bombings

Posted by Warren Peterson on April 22, 2013

The “race to be first” reporting on the Boston bombings by the media was appalling. One example, CNN, in a breathless exclusive, reported an early arrest only to walk the story back later in the day but not before other media from Fox to the Associated Press also ran the story. The 24/7 media has been criticized for their performance but Scott Stantis of the Chicago Tribune said it best with what has to be the editorial page cartoon of the year.

But even worse was the rampant speculation and politicization surrounding the event. It was said, the perpetrators were most likely right wing Tea Party types angry with the government so they set off bombs on Patriots Day in Boston. The gun rights folks were also to blame. One commentator on Salon, an on line news site, even tweeted “Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white guy.” He was concerned that if it were a person of color or a Muslim, it would set back the liberal agenda. Just look at a dozen plus examples from media opinion leaders including the aforementioned Salon tweeter : 12 ridiculous cases of media bias after boston bombing

Social media, (tweets, Facebook, blogs) also burned up the web with inflammatory rumors, opinions and misinformation that did nothing to inform the public, falsely maligned innocent people and may have hindered the investigation.

It may be difficult to cover a story like the Boston bombings 24/7 without slipping into speculation or skipping Journalism 101 source verification but that is no excuse for the performance failures, both hard news reporting and opinion commentators. For the consumers of social media, a large dose of skepticism is in order. As the song from Porgy & Bess says, slightly rephrased, “The things that you’re fed on the web ain’t necessarily so.”

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