Major Media's Fine Job Of Confusing Everyone About Boston Suspects

from the facts-of-the-matter dept

The death of journalism and fact-checking has long been the mantra of the major media in response to so-called internet journalism (which should just be called journalism, by the way). This, despite the fails of major media and the wins by journalistic websites, reveals a sort of paternal arrogance on the part of the still-major players in traditional reporting. It’s always interesting when the roles are massively reversed, which was on full display in the Boston Marathon bombing aftermath.

Deadspin notes, with a hysterically cut up video montage, the full failure of major media reporting on possible suspects in the aftermath.

We thought we’d condense today’s mess of media reporting into something easily consumable for the crowd that may have been working and thus wasn’t privy to the disaster taking place on television airwaves. Here, then, are your trusted news sources reporting, misreporting, backtracking, and scapegoating their way through the day.

You have to see the video for yourself, which I frustratingly can’t seem to find an embed for, to have the magnitude of mistakes and misreporting fully hit home. In a matter of hours, major news sources reported that a suspect was about to be arrested, had been arrested, was of brown-skin, white-skin, was taken by U.S. Marshals, then wasn’t arrested, then was re-arrested and was on his way to the courthouse, was then again un-arrested, culminating with the reporting that no suspect was even known by name, let alone arrested. In fact, there are times when the supposed fact-checking media can go even further and splash the pictures of people they claim are suspects on their front page, who definitely are not, for no apparent reason beyond that which seems to be they are brown-skinned. It’s enough to take one’s breath away.

Now, it should be noted that this isn’t to suggest that news sources on the internet aren’t capable of misreporting as well. Media, in general, is subject to a drive to draw attention by having the latest information, which often results in a rush to report what hasn’t been verified. But that is a characteristic of media, not traditional media or internet media. Just media. On the other hand, if you want the most extensive available investigation into the matter, your best choice isn’t the television or the papers, but Reddit, which has organized their own crowd-sourced investigation. That’s the power of the internet.

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Comments on “Major Media's Fine Job Of Confusing Everyone About Boston Suspects”

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Ninja (profile) says:

I think that besides throwing traditional media outfits credibility under the bus it also highlights the stage the American society is in. The absurd overreaction it sparked causing even innocents to become targets of any enraged person that doesn’t go a few further steps to confirm the news.

It is sad.

Also a pertinent comment: and they want us to throw money to see behind their paywalls for that prime quality. Thanks but Reddit does it much better and for free.

Ninja (profile) says:

Oh and I found one Reddit comment rather important:

If more evidence crops up proving innocence

Stop right there!

No one ever has to prove their fucking innocence. Every person in every fucking one of these pictures is innocent until there is enough evidence to prove guilt. It doesn’t work the other way around.

This should be obvious. And yet ppl have to be told that to stop and think.


Anonymous Coward says:

The timing and magnitude of yesterday’s idiot distracting idiocy was just magic.

It was quite a convenient mass journalistic fail for the Senators who at the same time voted away their insider-trader restrictions, and the House where the CISPA dog and pony were finally unveiled and started playing pinata with a paper mache made from the original constitution.

Major media certainly is convenient and reliable.

TheLastCzarnian (profile) says:

It's the Internet's fault!

They talked about this today on NPR. This is all because the major news agencies are used to dealing with responsible news sources who have pre-checked their facts, and now they have to deal with every Tom, Dick and Harry who comes along. NPR stated that despite this, the news outlets had shown an exemplary job of restraint.

Can anyone tell my why NPR runs commericals? I guess they have a different definition of “Public” than I do.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's the Internet's fault!

NPR doesn’t run commercials. Though your local station that plays NPR shows might if they don’t get enough public funding to foot the bill. Like 99% of stations that play NPR shows are a local public station that buys the shows from NPR.

Unless your just making an obscure joke about defending the majors as being paid for.

Androgynous Cowherd says:

We need a new type of news service

We need a new type of news service. One that lets a user subscribe to a topic of interest, such as the bombings, and then notifies them when there is new real news about a subscribed topic. Where real news means some genuinely new and significant development — in the case of a crime, an arrest, or a wanted-poster-type alert being published by the police, or new forensic results being announced, or something else like that.

Things that are not “real news” but which you’ll be inundated with if you just scan the media for stories on a topic like the bombings, or search Google News:

* Another attention-seeking talking head weighing in with speculation and punditry on some channel or another. These don’t actually have anything new to add in the way of facts, and are generally either attention whoring or trying to sell someone something (if there’s even a difference).

An *expert*’s opinions, where new, might qualify as “real news”. For example, an FBI profiler or forensic psychologist speculating about the perpetrator, or NTSB folks giving a preliminary statement about the likely cause of a crash, or whatever. Someone who knows their stuff. If the speaker’s job description is “forensic” something, or otherwise is technical, and he has a degree in something outside business or law, then maybe. If the speaker’s only degrees (if any) are in business or law and their job description is “politician”, “anchorman”, “editor”, “correspondent”, or similarly, then no. From those I’m not interested in hearing much beyond a statement of new facts.

* Random kooks with pet theories or manifestos of their own. (Mostly an Internet issue, but traditional media sometimes briefly interview such people, presumably for the audience to laugh at.)

* Announcements that some statement, opinion, news coverage, or whatever will be “forthcoming”. A “news story” that the chief of police is expected to hold a press conference at noon is neither news nor a story. For that matter, neither is the press conference itself, unless they have new forensic information or an arrest or something to announce.

* In that vein, announcements from officials that assure everyone that they are continuing to investigate and will have more information whenever. “We interrupt your regular programming to inform you that the FBI is continuing to do the FBI’s job.”

* Any political fluff that doesn’t matter. “Doesn’t matter” means anything that doesn’t involve specific policy decisions, legislation, declarations of emergency, or other actual acts of government. If the Senate has introduced a bill to require background checks to buy pressure cookers, that’s news. If the President is speechifying about how awful a thing this is, and the FBI will be doing their job by investigating it, and etc., that’s not news.

Is there any news service out there like that already, which gives subject-specific feeds that are free of all the posturing, speechifying, attention-whoring, and other BS that inevitably clutters up the reporting about these kinds of things and gives just the really salient and significant new news?

If not, how do we build one?

Berenerd (profile) says:

Fox News...

I was listening to Fox news….don’t ask me why…on the day that it happened. They had an “expert” as to possibilities that this happened. He stated “Well its most likely having to do with the fact tha tits Patriots day which commemorates the battle of Lexington and Condord.” I sat for a moment trying to figure out what he meant by that and all I could come up with was, “I don’t this the British are still holding a grudge about that…” I could be wrong though…

I have given up listening to speculative reporting. I wait for the actual words coming out of the mouth of the investigators. I atleast think their theories will be more realistic. not saying much I know.

special-interesting (profile) says:

Its probable that reporters will take years to dig out the story’s details. Normal. Everything heard so far are most likely rumors at best. Even now.

In this day of Internet access our best news sources might be from the witnesses themselves. These first hand accounts are the best and worst information sources. What was in any public Boston area blogs?

Its good that we can have first hand accounts of events (tragic or good) can be read almost instantaneously along with pictures and videos. Reddit seems like its more reliable than the evening news or morning newspapers.

Its not uncommon that witnesses just aren’t paying attention until after the fact/event/occurrence. They are busy doing their own things and not looking. Its hard to be a good witness and many people cant ever remember if a stoplight was red, green and even mix up the progression of vehicles. Such is the quality of eyewitnesses.

Androgynous Cowherd’s comment of ?Random kooks? kind of fits another social phenomena thats hard to pin down.

Its also hard to estimate what effects a perpetrator’s lies will have. How good their alibi stands and story sound. Especially if the suspect has enough money to defend themselves.

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