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Viewers bash news media for bungled Boston bomb suspect story

April 17, 2013|By Scott Collins
  • National and international media congregate outside the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse just prior to a code red Wednesday in Boston. The evacuation came as reporters gathered outside the courthouse amid speculation that a suspect was in custody from the Boston Marathon bombing.
National and international media congregate outside the John Joseph Moakley… (Darren McCollester\Getty…)

Oops. TV networks and other media are red-faced after a tough day in the Boston bombing investigation.

Viewers unloaded on CNN after the cable network mistakenly reported Wednesday that a suspect was in custody. But the FBI and Boston police later said such reports were wrong. Online and on TV, CNN attempted to walk back its earlier reporting.

"CNN has now thrown it to a panel to discuss how the President should fix CNN," Deadspin columnist Drew Magary sarcastically tweeted.

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"CNN: the Twitter of cable news media," tweeted @travisgster. "Only without the finely honed accuracy. #cnnfail#runcartoonsinstead."

"Over the past day and a half, there have been a number of press reports based on information from unofficial sources that has been inaccurate," the FBI wrote in a midday statement. "Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the media, particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting."

But in the fray of a highly competitive story, that's like begging the paparazzi to respect a celebrity's privacy.

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CNN was not the only news provider that jumped the gun. A widely quoted Associated Press story cited an unnamed law enforcement official who said an arrest was "imminent." That story appeared on Latimes.com and many other news websites.

Even after the earlier snafu, CNN kept trying to draw scraps of information out of officials. During a later afternoon interview, anchor Wolf Blitzer prodded Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to reveal details of the investigation, at one point even holding up a pressure cooker like the kind supposedly used in the bombings. Patrick politely declined to say much, other than "every day" investigators are getting closer to solving the case.

What do you think of the news media's handling of this story?

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Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT

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