CNN’s Failed Bombing Coverage

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).

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Untitled copyMoreover, 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

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6 thoughts on “CNN’s Failed Bombing Coverage

  1. Brock says:

    I will be interested to see how broadcast time is proportioned between the Boston Bombing and the Texas Explosion. Will the salty, more-ish flavor of a ‘terror attack’ keep people coming back to that bowl for another taste, even though the devastation in Texas likely trumps Boston in every other respect? Both are pretty random… both are newsworthy… both offer lessons to prevent a repeat… but which will keep us interested longer?

    I already know the answer, but I want to at least appear to be impartial and objective (unlike some of the news-gathering organizations… 😉

  2. Jeffrey Maciejewski says:

    Well said, Brock, well said. I know the answer, too. So long as the suspect(s) of the Boston Marathon remain at large, people’s fear will keep them coming back for more. And that’s sad. Because the blast in Texas seems utterly horrifying. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROrpKx3aIjA

  3. […] the case involving CNN’s erroneous reporting, this case again points to the need for news organizations to not jump the gun when reporting on […]

  4. […] bombings has been criticized for the way in which it valued speed over accuracy. As I reported on April 18, the network erroneously reported that an arrest had been made and that the suspect would be […]

  5. […] to some readers.] In the midst of the reporting on the Boston Marathon bombings, including CNN’s inaccurate reporting, on April 15 The Huffington Post published a piece that documented a shooting […]

  6. […] making things that we know to be bad to appear to be good. In its recent coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings, for example, CNN’s producers and anchors knew that getting facts right before news is announced […]

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