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Final Word: Misreporting of Boston Marthon arrests

Wednesday’s news coverage is a perfect example of the competitive nature of the business and how competing news agencies try to outdo each other to get the story first.

In this case though, the FBI is at the top of the news food chain and thus gets to make all the final decisions.

Wednesday, just before 11 a.m., CNN reported that a suspect was in custody in the Boston bombings. Fox News did too. ABC, for it’s part, held off, and instead asked the FBI for confirmation. The FBI said they had no one.

As much as ABC wanted the FBI to go one step further and say that CNN was wrong, that was too much to ask for. But don’t think it wasn’t at least suggested!

Usually, when one big news organization, say CNN, announces that a suspect is in custody, an inured person has died or elected official has resigned, the others follow in quick succession. Sometimes, police agencies release news before they want to, because certain half-truths are being reported as fact. In those instances, the media actually helps advance the story, by getting just ahead of it enough to sort of “push it along.” That agency-to-media relationship can get pretty tricky at those times.

In this case, the FBI made certain that all the news agencies to knew not to fool around with this story. The arrest of a real suspect will be too important to get wrong.