From The Associated Press
It seemed like the easiest of questions, one that would result in a simple “yes” or “no” answer: Is a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings under arrest?
Yet this past Wednesday many in the national media were left with egg on their faces when they failed to inform their viewers of the correct answer to that question.
The rush to break the story of an arrest in the case was led off by CNN, followed closely by The Associated Press, the Boston Globe, Fox News and others.
News outlets erroneously reported that an arrest had been made in the bombings. The New York Post was also hotly criticized for inaccurate reporting. It sparked even more controversy when it splashed pictures of two innocent men with the headline “BAG MEN: Feds seek these two pictured at Boston Marathon.”
When the AP issued an alert that a suspect in the bombing was in custody, The Joplin Globe posted that information on its website and social media sites.
Less than an hour later, we had to update those posts when the AP began backtracking its report, citing an official with the Boston Police Department who said that no suspect had been arrested.
It’s more than just a red-faced moment for our industry. It goes to the very core of credibility. We imagine it will be some time before members of the public forget the confusion and chaos they saw on their televisions, their computers, their phones or tablets.
Sadly, in this 24/7 news cycle, real facts are being deemed less important than “what is going to happen next?”
Getting the news out first is an important part of our business. But being first will never replace being right.