Thursday, November 23, 2017
TV and Media

How media got it so wrong on Boston Marathon non-arrest


Confusion roiled across television news outlets and social media Wednesday, as several reputable news outlets reported that a suspect had been identified and arrested in Monday's bombing at the Boston Marathon, only to turn around and recant the news as official sources denied the reports.

The culprit seemed to be anonymous law enforcement sources. Reports from those mistaken sources became a part of cable news' instant round robin of speculation and theorizing, even while some anchors cautioned about the dangers of speculating with so little information.

And as the conflicting reports piled up on Twitter, the audience had the sense of watching a media meltdown occur in real time.

In this case, mistaken sources led CNN, Fox News, the Associated Press and the Boston Globe to report at various times Wednesday that a suspect had been identified and arrested in connection with the crime.

Other news outlets, including NBC and CBS, insisted that no arrest had taken place. Eventually, the Boston Police Department and the U.S. Department of Justice issued official statements to quell the furor.

"Despite reports to the contrary there has not been an arrest in the Marathon attack," read a terse post on Twitter by Boston police, issued about an hour after CNN's initial report that a suspect had been arrested.

CNN anchor John King reported about 1:30 p.m. that police had identified a suspect. About 15 minutes later, he added that an arrest had been made, citing sources in the Boston Police Department.

Fox News also sent a message on Twitter at 2:05 p.m. saying a suspect had been arrested. Seven minutes later, the Boston Globe tweeted an arrest was "imminent," and three minutes after that the Associated Press reported on Twitter a suspect had been taken into custody.

During that time, from about 2 to 2:30, NBC and CBS insisted no arrest had been made. "All we can say for certain, is that all of our sources say no arrest," said Pete Williams, NBC's justice correspondent. CBS pronounced on Twitter just after 2 p.m. that no arrest had been made.

So what happened?

By 2:33 p.m., CNN reporter Joe Johns was quoting anonymous sources at the Justice Department to say there had been no arrest and no suspect identified.

"I'm told they have now checked as high as the attorney general of the United States," King added, returning to CNN's air at 2:45 p.m. to confirm no one had been arrested. "I went back to the Boston law enforcement source who said, 'We got 'em.' I said, 'Got an identification or arrest?' The source says, 'Can't talk to you right now.' Says there's significant blowback at the leaks."

About 3 p.m., the Justice Department in a statement criticized "inaccurate" news stories. "Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the media, particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting."

CNN sent Huffington Post a statement defending its handling of the story: "CNN had three credible sources on both local and federal levels. Based on this information, we reported our findings. As soon as our sources came to us with new information, we adjusted our reporting."

On Fox News, anchor Megyn Kelly explained the revised reporting on the arrest, saying that the usual journalistic process calls for reporters to rely on trusted sources to confirm information. "It appears in this case some confirmations were issued when perhaps they should not have been," Kelly said.

Paul Colford, a spokesman for the Associated Press, said later in the afternoon that the news service did not "pull back" from its original reporting, but only "added other reporting."

Judy Muller, a former network news correspondent who teaches journalism at the University of Southern California, told the New York Times, "I fear we have permanently entered the Age of the Retraction. All the lessons of the past — from Richard Jewell to NPR's announcement of the death of Gabby Giffords to CNN's erroneous report on the Supreme Court Ruling on Obamacare — fail to inform the present. The rush to be first has so thoroughly swallowed up the principal of being right and first that it seems a little egg on the face is now deemed worth the risk."

Information from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and New York Times was included in this report.


Thursday’s sports on TV/radio

TodayCollege footballMississippi at Mississippi State7:30 p.m.ESPNCollege basketballMissouri vs. Long Beach State11:30 a.m.ESPN2Tennessee vs. Villanova12:30 p.m.ESPNSt. John’s vs. Oregon State2 p.m.ESPNUPortland vs. North Carolina2:30 p.m.ESPNNorth C...
Updated: 6 hours ago
When to watch ‘Rudolph,’ ‘The Polar Express,’ ‘A Christmas Story Live’ and more holiday specials

When to watch ‘Rudolph,’ ‘The Polar Express,’ ‘A Christmas Story Live’ and more holiday specials

'Tis the season for a TV schedule packed with holiday specials and Christmas classics.We've already been seeing Christmas movies and commercials since early November, but the days following Thanksgiving are when all the networks kick into high gear.F...
Published: 11/22/17
Meet Amazon’s bawdy, opinionated Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Meet Amazon’s bawdy, opinionated Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Miriam "Midge" Maisel seems to have it all.It’s 1958 New York City, Upper West Side, and she’s a quick-witted Jewish housewife with two kids. She and her husband live in a plush apartment just a few floors below her meddling yet endearing parents.He’...
Published: 11/21/17
What to watch this week: ‘Marvel’s Runaways,’ ‘Godless,’ Thanksgiving specials

What to watch this week: ‘Marvel’s Runaways,’ ‘Godless,’ Thanksgiving specials

MondayDavid Letterman: The Mark Twain Prize, 9 p.m., PBS: A special celebrating the work of Late Night and The Late Show host David Letterman.SERIES PREMIERE: Big Hero 6 the Series, 8 p.m., Disney Channel: The new animated series takes place after th...
Published: 11/20/17

Monday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballMarquette vs. VCU2:30 p.m.ESPN2Wichita State vs. California4:30 p.m.ESPN2Molloy at St. John’s6:30 p.m.FS1UCLA vs. Creighton7 p.m.ESPNUTexas A&M vs. Oklahoma State7 p.m.ESPN2Jackson State at Maryland7 p.m.Big TenWomen: Butler at...
Published: 11/19/17

Sunday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosMonster Energy Cup: Ford EcoBoost 4003 p.m.NBCCFLSaskatchewan at Toronto1 p.m.ESPNewsEdmonton at Calgary4:30 p.m.ESPNewsCollege basketballMonmouth at Virginia1 p.m.FSFWomen: Maryland at Connecticut1:30 p.m.ESPNPuerto Rico Tip-Off, fifth pla...
Published: 11/18/17

Saturday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosXfinity: Ford EcoBoost 300 qualifying11 a.m.CNBCXfinity: Ford EcoBoost 3003:30 p.m.NBCSNCollege basketballMaryland-Eastern Shore at GeorgetownnoonFox SunBucknell at Maryland8:30 p.m.Big TenGolfPGA Europe: Tour Championship2:30 a.m.GolfPGA: ...
Published: 11/17/17
Video: Forget Pizza Rat. Meet St. Petersburg’s Pizza Squirrel

Video: Forget Pizza Rat. Meet St. Petersburg’s Pizza Squirrel

New York, it seems, doesn't have a monopoly on pizza-chomping rodents.Around 2:45 p.m. Friday, the Tampa Bay Times spotted a squirrel digging a nearly entire slice of pizza out of a trash can at 146 Second St. N in St. Petersburg. The squirrel hoppe...
Published: 11/17/17
Jeffrey Tambor accused of sexual harassment by his ‘Transparent’ co-star

Jeffrey Tambor accused of sexual harassment by his ‘Transparent’ co-star

"Transparent" actress Trace Lysette has accused actor Jeffrey Tambor of sexually harassing her on the set of the Amazon series.Lysette’s allegations mark the second time the star, who plays Maura Pfefferman on the critically acclaimed dramedy, has be...
Published: 11/17/17
Here are this week’s pop culture winners and losers

Here are this week’s pop culture winners and losers

WINNERS:Taylor SwiftFollowing the death of his mother, Gloria, The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon shared a touching story with the audience about his mom squeezing his hand three times and saying "I love you," when he was a kid. "Last week, I was in ...
Published: 11/17/17