One might think that after the truly egregious errors made in coverage of the Newtown tragedy in December, major news outlets would reevaluate their policies about being first vs. being accurate. But here we are with another tragedy, and another flub by a major network.
On Wednesday, CNN reported that an arrest had been made in the Boston bombing case, and that a “dark-skinned male” seen walking away from the scene in video footage from a Lord & Taylor store was the suspect. According to the network, a “source” in federal law enforcement source told CNN’s Fran Townsend that someone
It wasn’t just CNN. FOX News “confirmed” that an arrest had been made. The Associated Press said that a “subject was in custody.”
NBC’s Pete Williams insisted that no arrest had been made, but there were individuals of interest identified by the FBI. Later, as more news outlets reported that an arrest had been made, or a suspect had been identified, NBC continued to insist that their sources told them no arrest had been made.
Turns out, NBC was right.
“Despite reports to the contrary, there has not been an arrest in the Marathon attack,” the Boston Police Department said via their official Twitter following CNN’s report. CNN claims that there was a “misunderstanding
The following screen grab, picked up by Twitter user @dbrauer, shows that at one point, there were even conflicting reports on CNN’s home page.
Following the errors, the FBI released a statement, skewering the media’s rush to report. “Contrary to widespread reporting,
no arrest has been made in connection with the Boston Marathon attack.
Over the past day and a half, there have been a number of press reports
based on information from unofficial sources that has been inaccurate.
Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the
media, particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to
exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate
official channels before reporting.”
transported to the Federal Courthouse in Boston, media descended. The Courthouse and surrounding areas were subsequently evacuated, according to the Boston Globe. “Federal courthouse evacuated; hundreds outside. People are being pushed
back from building. Coast Guard and police boats in water,” they report via Twitter. “The courthouse is where a large contingent of media had gathered for an expected appearance by the suspect in Marathon bombings.”