We the Media

Why doesn't the lamestream media take me seriously?
Why doesn’t the lamestream media take me seriously?
Every Friday or so I do a 15 minute radio show on a FOX! Sports affiliate based in Aurora. That’s their shiny logo to the right. Since we talk about everything from python hunts in Florida to the history of the Gospels there is one simple rule in place; I must be able to verify publicly any sources I cite. It has never once interfered with the show. I apply the same basic rule here and provide links that you, yes you, can click to find out more about anything you are reading about. FOX! News, which is a very different animal than FOX! Sports, takes a different tack. Instead of verifiable sources they use the, ever popular, “some people say” technique. That gets you high quality journalism that clearly, and confidently, states things like “Some people say that President Obama is really a lizard sent by, pork loving, Muslim aliens ….” and so on. What the hell, if you’re just going to be making stuff up anyway you may as well have some fun with it.

Oh well, the only people who take FOX! News seriously are the same ones who think that Wal Mart is for uppity folk.

That’s why serious people who want serious news turn to CNN. At least they used to. CNN, recently (under new management) has taken to the “I spoke to the guy who met the gal who walked the dog of the guy who met the guy who might know the gal who could possibly shed light on this issue or, at the very worst, tell us how Pop Tarts are made” school of journalism. It’s bad enough that they air crap like Get to the Point, which is based so far from reality as to make delusional people squirm.

Actual quote; “I’m a vegetarian but I love bacon.”

Yesterday CNN decided to set the bar so low I doubt that anyone will ever get under it. They spent an afternoon pretending that an arrest had been made in the Boston bombings.

Which was 100% wrong.

Marsha Guthrie has the whole story.

Questionable information from sources and a rush to be first contributed to a flurry of erroneous media reports Wednesday of an arrest in the deadly Boston Marathon bombing. CNN, the Associated Press, FoxNews.com and the Boston Globe were forced to backtrack on reports — all of which cited anonymous law enforcement sources — that an arrest had been made in the attack Monday that injured almost 200 and killed three, including an 8-year-old boy.

Meanwhile, the FBI took the unusual step of issuing a statement correcting the media and asking that it show restraint in its reporting and verify information “through appropriate official channels.”

Veterans of the TV news trenches say that while sources can often offer incomplete, misleading or bad information, the onus is on the news organization to properly vet that information.

“There’s nothing worse than having to backtrack on your story,” says one veteran producer. “Because then you get a reputation for being wrong.”

Such mistakes are nothing new in journalism, of course. The 2000 presidential election, the 1996 Atlanta Olympic bombing and the 1995 Oklahoma City attack remain watershed moments for the news media in which serious mistakes were made in how they were covered. But the age of the instant Twitter update may have ramped up the rate of error with a string of faulty reports during more recent breaking news situations.

Multiple media outlets misidentified the shooter in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., and also said the suspect’s mother was killed at the school. CNN and Fox News misreported the Supreme Court’s January decision on President Obama’s health care overhaul. ABC News correspondent Brian Ross erroneously linked Aurora, Colo., shooter James Holmes to the Tea Party. And early reports about the January 2011 Tucson, Ariz., shooting involving U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords said the congresswoman had died.

But the stakes now are particularly high for CNN, as the struggling cable news network attempts to reinvent itself under new chief Jeff Zucker.

“The game plan for CNN is to wait until a major story happens and then strut their stuff,” says independent news analyst Andrew Tyndall. “Anybody can make a mistake. But when CNN makes a mistake, it matters more to them because this is the one time that they can get eyeballs to sample them.”

CNN also came under significant criticism for its reporting that the suspect is a “dark-skinned male.” CBS News reported that the possible suspect is a white man wearing a “white or off-white baseball cap backwards.”

In a statement, CNN defended its decision to report that an arrest had been made. “CNN had three credible sources on both local and federal levels,” said a network spokesperson. “Based on this information, we reported our findings. As soon as our sources came to us with new information, we adjusted our reporting.”

The Globe reported that the (false) reports of a suspect in custody sent “spectators, photographers and reporters” flocking to “the federal courthouse on the South Boston waterfront, expecting the suspect to be brought there for a court appearance.”

NBC News’ Pete Williams was an early dissenter in the erroneous Boston Marathon reports, insisting on MSNBC that no arrests had been made even as CNN was sticking by its original story, which earned him plaudits from network executives.

“There’s no second guessing with Pete Williams,” says MSNBC president Phil Griffin. “There have been other times when others have gotten ahead of themselves. We don’t do it until we get clearance from a guy that everyone in this building trusts. And that has helped us through a lot of things.”

Williams also was among the reporters who correctly analyzed the Obamacare decision as other networks rushed to air with the findings from the dense report. And sources at ABC News say that the network’s black eye over the Aurora shooting has led to an abundance of caution in reporting breaking news stories. ABC News president Ben Sherwood has been cautioning producers and correspondents to be “extra vigilant in their reporting on this story,” said one source.

Certainly during a quickly evolving breaking news story, miscommunication can occur. In an effort to be transparent, CNN’s John King noted on the air that one of his law enforcement sources told him there was “significant blowback at the leaks.”

The AP, which reported that a suspect was in custody, also subsequently updated its story to say that the law enforcement official who briefed the wire service “stood by the information even after it was disputed.”

The scope of the investigation, which involves state, local and federal law enforcement also is likely contributing to the confusion. There were initial reports of five unexploded devices in the area. Multiple outlets reported that a “Saudi national” injured in the attacks was a suspect. The New York Post still had a story on its website late Tuesday saying that 12 people had been killed. Three people were killed in the twin bombings.

Meanwhile, officials have postponed a news conference scheduled for 5 p.m. ET Wednesday while offering no update on when it might be rescheduled.

All the way back on Tuesday I noted how rushing to judgement was never a good thing. Maybe someone can forward that memo to CNN.

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Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG (FOX! Sports) every Friday around 9:10 AM.
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