Yesterday, in its coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing, CNN seemed to get swept up in the excitement of a possible arrest to the extent that it found itself reporting news that wasn’t true. For example, in the clip above correspondent John King reports “that an arrest has been made” in the case. As it turned out, that wasn’t true. Although The Huffington Post reported that the Associated Press made the same mistake, it was CNN who was called out for erring in its reporting. Even during the broadcast, observers were calling out CNN via Twitter (see below).
Moreover, CNN was criticized also for claiming that, according to a source, the “suspect” was a “dark-skinned male.” Of course, we don’t know if in fact King (or his producer) really did obtain information about an arrest from three reliable sources. If so, then they certainly weren’t reliable.
What this case seems to reveal is that extra care must be taken in reporting on high-profile, emotionally charged stories. The Boston Marathon bombings were, in many respects, a national tragedy with correspondingly high emotions. Instead of carefully corroborating sources and waiting to report until they had done so, CNN seemingly went to air with news that was factually incorrect and in doing so, violated the public’s trust that news organizations work so hard to earn. As comedian Jon Stewart remarked later in the evening (see below) about CNN’s persistent use of the word “exclusive” during its erroneous reporting, “it’s exclusive because it was completely [expletive deleted] wrong.”
Thanks to Dan Kelly for the tip.
Sources: CNN, huffingtonpost.com, comedycentral.com, mediaite.com