The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

    Botched media coverage of Boston Bombings: Instantaneous reporting compromises accurate newsgathering

    The April 15 bombings of the Boston Marathon set off a scene as chaotic as it was surreal.

    People scrambled aimlessly, unsure of what to do in the aftermath of such a brazen and unexpected act.

    News sources passed on every piece of information they came across.

    Given the emergency of the situation, the most important thing was to act quickly: any hesitation would have consequences for ratings.

    Story continues below advertisement

    Unfortunately, this was the scene in the news media in the hours and days that followed the bombings in Boston.

    According to, news organizations such as Fox News, CNN, The Boston Globe and the Associated Press, took turns spewing inaccurate if not patently false information. Arrests were reported, and then retracted.

    Supposed suspects alternated between “dark-skinned male” and “white male.”

    Newsrooms flew fast and loose with the facts, more concerned with being the first to break news than verifying if the latest rumor could actually be substantiated with facts.

    The New York Post, a paper that doesn’t shy away from sensationalistic headlines, outdid itself with the headline: “Bag Men,” right above a photo of two vaguely identified Middle Eastern men who turned out not to be suspects in the case.

    According to, one of the men pictured was an area high school track runner who had to profess his innocence on Facebook to avoid being wrongfully accused.

    The “reporting” from the Post upped the ante from embarrassing to dangerous. It’s one thing to erroneously report that arrests have been made or suspects identified; it’s quite another to splash the faces of two unconfirmed suspects on the front page of a largely circulated newspaper.

    Especially in a country as notoriously Islamophobic as the United States, the consequences of such reckless journalism could have further exacerbated anti-Islamic sentiment.

    The irresponsible actions weren’t limited to journalists.

    According to, U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., did his part in fanning the flames of anti-Muslim rhetoric.

    “Listen, the threat is coming from within the Muslim community in these cases,” King said on Fox News. “If you know a certain threat is coming from a certain community, that’s where you have to look.”

    This, of course, ignores the fact that the last two highly publicized cases of mass murder on American soil, the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting and theater shooting in Colorado,  were not perpetrated by Muslim extremists.

    Some arm-chair detectives on Twitter had already voiced their opinion on the identity of the suspects; not a day had passed before various users made inflammatory remarks denigrating Muslims and cursing “towel heads.”

    In the age of the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle, the integrity and reliability of the news business stands on shaky ground.

    Nowadays, news outlets are more concerned with being first than being right.

    Often getting out-scooped by the likes of Twitter, cable news networks are increasingly falling into the habit of just reporting whatever rumor happens to come their way, and hope that something sticks.

    Therefore, it is up to the public to think critically when consuming the news.

    Readers and viewers must be vigilant when it comes to deciding whether what they are hearing is based on concrete facts, or merely baseless conjecture.

    In times of crisis, it’s easy to be swept up in a wave of hysteria, grabbing on to any piece of information, no matter how unsubstantiated it is.

    With new technology comes the need for the public to change the way we consume the news.

    Leave a Comment
    More to Discover

    Comments (0)

    La Voz Weekly intends this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments should be respectful and constructive. We do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks or language that might be interpreted as defamatory. La Voz does not allow anonymous comments, and requires a valid name and email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comment.
    All La Voz News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest