The Chicago Trib sent the Boston Globe pizza today, and a kind note

In appreciation of a job well done covering the Boston Marathon bombings, the staff of the Chicago Tribune sent the Boston Globe pizza and a kind note.

Here’s a tweet from Jennifer Peter, the Metro Editor of the Boston Globe:

And here’s the note the Trib reporters sent to the Globe reporters. Classy.

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I know a lot of people gave the media flak for how it handled the coverage last week – especially CNN, even though CNN didn’t handle it any differently than the AP, for example (both had reported the bomber caught, when he wasn’t).  But I think it’s easy to squawk from the outside about how “bad” the media is without fully appreciating how hard it is to cover a rapidly-changing story like this.

Yes, Pete Williams at NBC did a great job, but it would be interesting to look back on the week’s coverage, and at everything Williams reported, to see exactly what he got right, and what if anything he got wrong.  Also, keep in mind, the rest of NBC was covering this story too, so perhaps Williams had the luxury of not reporting unconfirmed things because his colleagues would cover that base for him, thus making sure the 24 hour news cycle was satiated.

I’d also note that after everyone screamed at CNN, their coverage became awfully boring and stale.  I stopped watching after that – CNN was my go-to network on this crisis before – I was watching up until everyone flipped out.  After, CNN seems once-burned-twice-shy, I was getting better updates via Twitter, so I bolted.

The fact is, a lot of us were on Twitter “watching” the manhunt unfold, and it was pretty fascinating stuff.  And some of it was true, while some of it was fale.  In the true category was Reddit’s, apparently, crowd-sourcing of David Green’s Facebook photo which provided, at that point in time, the best photo we had yet of Suspect 2, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, leaving the scene of the bombing (rather calmly compared to everyone else who were clearly freaking out).  This is just a small version of the photo – the original, which you can download, is much larger.

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What if Reddit got that one wrong, the same way it apparently got the names of the bombers wrong?  What if Reddit pulled its punches and didn’t discuss that Facebook photo, lest they be wrong?  Then that best-photo-yet of the suspected terrorist may never have been discovered.

I, for example, uncovered something less significant, but still interesting - Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Russian Facebook-style home page (a number of media outlets have reported on this page now, not mentioning us of course :).

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At that point, no one, to my knowledge, had yet found it, as his name had only just been released to the public.  The page included a number of interesting things, including his ties to Chechnya (he’s fluent in Chechen, among other points in the profile), and his ties to Islam – neither was known at the time.  The page also led me to other good photos of Dzhokhar, and to some of his friends.  The page also showed that he had checked in at 9pm the night before using a mobile device, i.e., Thursday night right before the 7-11 robbery and the murder of the MIT cop (that couldn’t have proved useful to tracking him down).  I researched what I could to confirm that this was real – including finding birthday elsewhere – and after being 99% convinced, I ran with it.  I could have been wrong.  But my gut, and my brain, told me it was real.  But I could have been wrong.  Should I not have run it?  Are we only saying “yes, run it” after the fact because now we know it’s real?

Same thing with the Jeff Gannon story I covered way back in 2005. I got that story on a Thursday night, and didn’t run with it until Monday morning because I spent four days tracking it down, to make sure I was right.  I could have been wrong – I didn’t think I was wrong, but there’s always that chance when you report news.

And I had 4 days to get my ducks in a row on Gannon.  In this 24 hours news cycle, you don’t have any time until the other networks, other reporters, beat you to a story.  That’s not an excuse for getting the story wrong, or being sloppy.  But when CNN talks to trusted sources at DOJ, or wherever, and those trusted sources tell CNN “we got him,” what is CNN to do in the middle of a fast-breaking story – not tell anyone?

I think, in the end, I’d rather have CNN tell me the raw data they’re hearing, and tell that it’s not confirmed, tell me their sources – we have two trusted sources at DOJ, or whatever, who tell us this is true.  And tell us that it’s still possible it isn’t true.  And then we’ve had full information.  I’d much prefer that to the CNN we got for much of the rest of the week, when they were so burned that they appeared to be pulling punches.  That news coverage was boring, and I was getting far more information on Twitter, so I stopped watching.  That’s hardly an incentive for CNN to “do better” the next time, if by “doing better” no one watches.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • HeartlandLiberal

    FWIW, I followed the entire saga online, through key reliable blogs (such as this one) and news aggregation sites like news.google.com, that lets me follow posts that are popping up real time. I find that to be a much more effective way to follow news events that watching CNN, which has become for me akin to having a root canal with no sedation, and the inability to put a brick through the monitor of the TV because you still want to use it for useful and enjoyable viewing of other things.

  • UncleBucky

    And in other stories, if the Chicago Tribune is bought by the Kochs, then it’s all over for print.

  • ezpz

    Admittedly, I jumped around and didn’t stay with one station for too long, but whenever I landed on CBS, I found them to be the most professional and accurate. Professional in that they did not report what had not yet been confirmed to them. Hence, their accuracy.

  • ezpz

    At least one thing that Pete Williams got wrong was that like Diane Sawyer, he was also ‘reporting’ that there was a ‘body’ in the boat. Obviously, that was not the case.

    http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1304/21/rs.01.html

    From the transcript in the link above, I have to take issue with Howard Kurtz’s assessment of Diane Sawyer.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    The problem with CNN, John, is that they didn’t say they had unconfirmed reports. Both they and the AP asserted they had confirmation (and probably the same wrong source). (And as for the NY Post, they apparently just made up shit and threw it to the printing presses.)

    What was especially egregious about the CNN reporting is they were irresponsible. They spent an hour repeating BS about “a dark-skinned male” having been arrested, and even went so far as to speculate whether this individual — who didn’t exist — had a foreign accent. They had also earlier repeated the false report that a Saudi national was in custody. They inflamed passions, having to know for a fact what every person of dark skin went through in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack — namely scapegoating and, all too often, violence.

    You say you tuned away from CNN after their reporting became boring and stale — and presumably tuned in to some other cable news station. Personally, when I wanted to catch up, I’d watch MSNBC, in large part because they had Pete Williams on tap, and when he didn’t know something or was asked some leading question, he wouldn’t hesitate to say “We don’t know. It’s too early to say anything right now.”

    Even your own story, John, shows the difference between you and CNN’s reporting. You found some information, you researched it, your gut said 99% — and so you went with it. For CNN, all it seemed to take was one anonymous source asserting something and they accepted it as fact. Without due diligence and independent checking.

    You took four days on the Gannon story — and rightly so, because I think you knew deep down you were about to destroy a man’s career. Deservedly so, as it turned out, but you were 100% responsible in how you went about your reporting.

    Contrast that with CNN going ahead and asserting inaccurately that a hospitalized and badly burned Saudi man was “in custody.” Seems to me this one fact would not take much to verify with just a few phone calls.

    One of the main reasons CNN’s reporting has become so incredibly lousy over the last decade is they’ve fired all their best boots-on-the-ground journalists, in favor of over-paid in-studio talent and BS techno-gimmicks. What the producers at CNN need to realize is there is a choice other than “make grossly irresponsible reporting mistakes” and “failing to report anything of interest because existing sources can’t be trusted.”

    That alternative is “become real journalists again.” Like you, John.

  • Leota2

    I don’t watch the news for excitement. I watch it to get measured, fact checked information.
    With John King and his “dark skinned ” idiocy and the rest of CNN and various newspapers
    spewing completely wrong information, made up stories, hysteria and out and out getting it all wrong (seventeen year old innocent boy fingered as a terrorist on the cover of the NY Post)—-it was a disastrous.

    My problem with 24 hour news channels had always been the filler—letting idiotic uninformed pundits
    talk their heads off just to fill the space. Now, its realizing these people will say almost anything to get ratings during a crisis. Kudos to the media outlets who managed to stay sane and professional.

    Anyway, BBC America is all I can manage these days.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    I’m not so sure about that. I think the cost-model died about ten years ago. But I’m not sure the profession per se did.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001426939279 Carl Kerstann

    What’s sad is that these people still think of themselves as journalists. That profession died at least 20 years ago.

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