Suffice it to say that last week was not the media's finest. In the rush to be the first to break important news about the Boston Marathon bombing and the subsequent investigation, numerous news organizations made really big mistakes. What is worse: No one was really held accountable for them. Being publicly mocked on social media and TV comedy shows hardly counts.
CNN reported that arrests had been made in the case. FOX reported the same. The Associated Press reported that a suspect was in custody. Those and other reports sent journalists and curious citizens to a Boston courthouse in the expectation that a suspect would be brought in. None was because all of the reports were wrong.
It fell to the FBI to scold the media and remind them to verify leaks before reporting them.
Before conservative media bashers get too worked up with the "we told you so's," some bloggers and commenters on the right were not so careful either. Claims that CNN's Wolf Blitzer had tied the bombings to right-wingers proved untrue, and rank speculation that the bomber was the missing Brown University student or a Marxist made some people look pretty silly. Even worse, users of the link-sharing website Reddit.com identified their own suspects through photos of marathon crowds, and they wound up fingering innocent people.
Maybe the ridicule will chasten some of the national reporters, who really are under tremendous professional pressure to break news. The news cycle shrunk by social media has intensified that pressure. And maybe the bloggers and online sleuths will take last week's experience to heart and learn something about the old-fashioned standards of reporting, which still apply in this new media world.