Well today was interesting, huh?
Like everyone else, I’ve been following the investigation in Boston the last couple days. Today, we heard conflicting reports over whether or not an arrest had been made, whether a suspect was en route to a the federal courthouse, and whether or not a suspect had even been identified yet. In the end, we’re in the same place we were when the day started: no one has been arrested, no one has been charged, and no suspect’s name has been released.
I understand the desire for media outlets to be first with breaking news. Every other outlet has to attribute it to you, and people are inclined to tune into your network or visit your website or buy your paper if you had it first.
But in today’s 24-hour, Twitter-based news cycle, the race to be first and the race to be accurate are often running in opposite directions. CNN reported that an arrest had been made. So did Fox News and the Associated Press. NBC said there were no arrests. I saw people making fun on CBS because they didn’t say anything.
And yet, soon after, we heard that the authorities were stating that there were no arrests, and suddenly CNN became the butt of everyone’s jokes (my favorite jokes were the ones where everyone – every single person on Twitter anywhere ever – referenced the inevitable “Newsroom” plotline that would stem from the false report).
First of all…why them? Other outlets continued to report that an arrest had been made. And yet, CNN took all the heat. Why? I mean, I get that Fox News has a reputation among a certain portion of the populace that uses social media that implies that anything they report is wrong, anyway, but they still reported the same story. So did the venerable Associated Press. And yet, all the jokes were at the expense of CNN. That seems unfair.
Secondly, doesn’t it seem odd that the very people who perpetuated CNN’s misinformation – the people who retweeted the story, the people who shared it on Facebook, and the people who told their friends about it – were the ones who then proceeded to vilify the network for its rush to publish? All they did was report a story from a source; admittedly, they did it too soon, or trusted a misinformed source, or misinterpreted what that source told them. But it wasn’t like they went door-to-door sharing the news; it was the public, the consumers of the media, that spread the false report faster than a news network ever could.
So let’s simmer down. “Leave CNN alone!” as an internet celebrity might say. Remember, all they did was bake the cake. We chose to eat it.