On his Sunday broadcast, CNN’s Howard Kurtz was critical of both CNN’s and the rest of the media’s coverage of the quickly moving story of the apprehension of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects on Friday. “What is the rush to put this information that has not been confirmed on the air?” Kurtz asked of his own network as well as the rest of the progressive media establishment.
Many outlets got early aspects of the story wrong as events unfolded during that hectic Friday afternoon. Some sources said suspects were arrested long before they were and reports that there was “a body” on the boat in which bombing suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev had taken refuge also turned out to be a garbling of the facts.
Kurtz noted that getting facts wrong this isn’t anything new for the media and cited the case of Richard Jewell who was convicted in the press of the Olympic bombing in 1996 even as he ended up being innocent.
The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple chimed in to say that news organizations have to learn to hold their fire until they get full confirmation from authorities about events. The rest of the panel didn’t seem to agree.
Specific attention was paid by the Reliable Sources panel to CNN’s John King who said early on Friday that a “dark-skinned male” was being sought by police in connection with the bombing.
Kurtz wondered if getting the information right would have made King a “hero”? CBS News’ Lauren Ashburn replied that it would, but Wemple disagreed saying that just because King would have gotten to air it first would have been quickly forgotten. Whemple also said that he “didn’t see what possible use” there was to King’s reporting that a “dark-skinned male” was being sought by police.
“He says he was simply repeating what a law enforcement source told him,” Kurt explained.
Kurtz turned to Mediaite.com’s Joe Concha asking why CNN seemed to get more criticism for getting some of its early reportage wrong on the apprehension of the Tsarnaev brothers. Concha said that CNN is the “spare tire in the car,” and “when a story breaks” people go to CNN to find out what is going on because “they’re the best” at live coverage.
The events in Boston, however, marks a departure from the past as viewers broke that CNN habit. This time, Fox News surged ahead beating CNN’s ratings during the coverage of the Boston story.
Kurtz next went on to scold NBC’s Pete Williams for the body-on-the-boat report.
“NBC’s Pete Williams has generally been praised for his reporting. He is a very experienced beat reporter. But on Friday night, as we saw earlier he, relying on sources, said that there was a body on the boat,” Kurtz said.
Whemple pointed out that when people say “a body” they usually mean a corpse. But as things progressed we all discovered that the younger Tsarnaev was still alive.
That is when Howard Kurtz asked, “What is the rush to put this information that has not been confirmed on the air?”
The panel seemed to conclude that all the rush to air information was just a result of competition.