There was another example of the competition between the major television news agencies Wednesday afternoon in their coverage of the bombings in Boston.
At about 2 p.m., CNN reported that an arrest had been made and the suspect was in custody at a federal courthouse. However, MSNBC said no arrest had been made and that the law enforcement officials were still investigating evidence and the images from two video cameras. Meanwhile, Fox News was somewhere in the middle, only indicating that there were new developments in the case.
Within an hour, CNN, with four reporters on the air, including Chris Cuomo, John King and Anderson Cooper, gradually began to back off their story about an arrest being made after virtually competing as to who had best understanding of the incident.
Finally, CNN had to say, unequivocally, that no arrest had been made and now it was left to their aggressive reporters to rationalize their mistake, blaming it ostensibly on conflicting reports from law enforcement officials, the FBI and the Justice Department.
Now, with all the stations are on the same page, clarification will have to come later Wednesday evening, and even at that time there may no resolution of the situation. More informed viewers may recall the media rush to get the story first, rather getting it right in previous national catastrophes, particularly when there’s the issue of terrorism, as in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, for which Timothy McVeigh was finally apprehended, convicted and executed.
What we do know at this point, according to the FBI and the Justice Department, is that a face without identity has been determined from video cameras outside a Lord & Taylor store. Two videos show a person leaving a bag at one of the explosion sites, though it has not been disclosed whether this was at the first or second site of the bombings. These are facts that all the stations seem to agree on.
At 5 p.m. on Wednesday, a press conference was scheduled, but that’s something we hope to cover on our website.