After the Boston bombing last week, we had coverage streaming in the newsroom nonstop, but we noticed something –– every major broadcast outlet had serious issues, such as misinformation or late reporting, with their coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing.
CNN, in particular, seemed to be arguing with themselves over what information proved true at any given time during the four-day manhunt for the Tsarnaev brothers. In the midst of media missteps, though, social media outlets came to the forefront for up-to-the-minute information as events unfolded. Twitter became the best source for updates on the manhunt, and many residents in Boston and Watertown received information even before news sources like CNN and Fox. Instagram was the best place to find photos of the boat where 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was apprehended and the surrounding scene. In fact, the Boston Police Department chose Twitter to announce that the suspect had finally been taken into custody alive.
It’s also true that a lot of misinformation occurred over the course of the last week, but if there is anything that CNN’s fumbling coverage hammers home, it is the importance of looking critically at news sources, regardless of whether or not they are well-respected outlets with enormous resources or faceless crafters of 160-word updates on Twitter.
What was startling is that major TV news outlets couldn’t verify the facts quickly enough to compete with casual users of social media. The changes in communication that we’ve been humming about for the last 10 years have already happened, and it was evident with the rapid spread of news on the situation in Boston on social media and through web coverage.