The News and Social Media's Not Good, Very Bad Week

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 22, 2013 | Go to article overview

The News and Social Media's Not Good, Very Bad Week


Byline: Joseph Curl, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Moore's Law states that computer processors double in complexity and speed every two years.

A similar law applies to news: Call it the Law of More.

Seconds after Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev detonated explosives at the Boston Marathon on April 15, the media went into hyperdrive - but this time, everyone was a journalist. Police chiefs and top FBI agents practically begged the public to get involved, pleading for pictures and videos - no lead was too small.

And, boy, did everyone get involved and how.

On Day One, the FBI was deluged. By Day Five, after the bureau released photos of the bombers, its website was getting 300,000 queries a minute - that's 5,000 a second.

In between, it was shoot first, ask questions later.

First, news agencies rushed to report that authorities were questioning a suspect - a Saudi, no less! Investigators have a suspect - a Saudi Arabian national - in the horrific Boston Marathon bombings, the New York Post has learned. "The man was caught less than two hours after the 2:50 p.m. bombing on the finish line, in the heart of Boston."

Oops. Turned out he was being questioned as a witness, not a suspect.

The same story reported, much like the rest of the media, that a third explosion had occurred at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Who knows who first reported the fact : Within minutes, the wildfire had burned across the networks.

Except it wasn't an explosion, it was a fire - unrelated to the bombings. And a minor fire at that, a problem with the HVAC system.

Day Two wasn't much better. By then, all the nets had flown in their talking hair to pore over every last tip from every source, all breathlessly reporting from the streets of Boston - in the harsh daylight sun that reminds us all how much makeup and TV lights really help! Experts crawled out from under their rocks to speculate ... and bloviate ... and postulate theory after mindless theory.

By then, the FBI had had enough - it postponed a 5 p.m. press briefing, then after 8 that night canceled it altogether. The message: Everyone calm down, we'll take it from here.

Around that time, Internet sleuths finished up their bowls of cereal in their parents' basements and took to the Web. Some on sites like Reddit and 4Chan and Twitter compiled slide shows of suspicious characters - you know, people with backpacks and wearing white baseball hats (not backward, like the clue leaked by some mouthy official, just caps). Hmm, 23,000 runners, all needing a change of clothes, yeah, there might be some backpacks. And runners, um, they wear caps.

Day Three brought more journalism - this time by real journalists. On the street, Supercuts Wolf Blitzer, excitedly said to John King, You're getting more information - exclusive reporting - what else are you learning? "Uh "said Hair Cuttery King,"that an arrest has been made in the investigation here in Boston."

So, Biltzer asked exclusively, the suspect that has been identified has now been arrested? "I, I, I "King stuttered."We would assume that. I've just been told an arrest has been made "King said. …

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