The Wretched Journalism Awards

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UPDATE: The people at CNN should pile their credentials and diplomas in a central location and set them ablaze. Like the Wicker Man.

Obviously, some special hell exists for the New York Post, so unrepentantly reckless.

But there’s so much blame to go around. Murphy is right.

How did this ever get published? In case they change it later, here’s the lede:

Experts say the two bombs used near the Boston Marathon finish line were built using pressure cookers, and contained black powder or gunpowder as the explosive and ball bearings as shrapnel. Experts say instructions on how to design such bombs are available on the Internet.

That’s two “experts say” in one paragraph. Inconceivable! And nowhere else in the story are those two claims re-referenced with some explanation of who those “experts” are and what, specifically, they say. Just, you know, experts!

UPDATE: They did fix it. A little.

On today’s “Fresh Air” show, Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy repeated the widely reported and widely corrected claim that law enforcement shut down cell phone networks to prevent the use of phones as detonators. The host, Terry Gross did not correct him. Can’t nobody here play this game? This mistake seems to have originated from super-safe AP.

Last night,  the cable news shows were not only trafficking in the “several unexploded bombs” story but using their “experts” to explain how helpful those unexploded bombs would be in tracking down the maker. Don’t even get me started.

All yesterday afternoon, I was hovering over a report from the Atlantic site that Newtown families were seated in a VIP section near the blast. I lost count of all the times this was retweeted, by organs of the press and by just folks. I decided not to give it to our radio news people or put it on my blog. It didn’t seem correct. (One darkly amusing phenomenon is the way Twitter-users will see the same thing pop up from two different sources and then call it “confirmed” even though all the sources are just stampeding away from the same, single report.) I have yet to see any real confirmation of this.  If it’s wrong, the Atlantic — and others — ought to say so.

Police commissioner Ed Davis is not a journalist, but he certainly muddied the waters in his first press conference, when he got way over his skis about the “third incident” at the JFK Library and then suggested people could draw “your own conclusions” about whether this was terrorism. Draw you own conclusions?  What the hell kind of an official statement is that?  Another example of why Paul Vance should be thanked effusively for his restraint and care in the Newtown shootings.



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7 thoughts on “The Wretched Journalism Awards

  1. Richard

    I found out early during the UConn Conference Realignment that at least half the crap tweeted or blogged about was patently made up to drive web hits.

    That wasn’t a surprise: When I day traded in the 90s I found out an ex-broker who was part of our ‘chat and post’ group was issuing recommendations on PR Newswire. Turns out a PR Newsire release cost only $100 and you could publish a story saying your grandma just bought ATT shares and is now senile. That would go across all the wires and get picked up by Bloomberg Terminals, etc. Perfect for traders to run pump and dump schemes all day long on Y2K stocks and dotnet rumors. Which of course they did. Better yet they would wait to short their own news stories after the gullible bought the faux cancer-curing news about a stock and the price spiked 80% in 2 hours.

    To quote Morpheus: Welcome to the desert of the real.

    You’ve got to get into the pump and dump of Global Warming theories to really get into the desert of human ethics. The New Science where ‘Fame precedes Function’ and the new mantra ‘Publicity or Perish’ rules Graduate School Culture.

  2. Michael

    Mr. Dankosky also failed to correct the erroneous report about the cell phone networks being shut down after the explosions. It aired on his show this morning. Happens to the best, Colin.

  3. ThresherK

    How few engineers does a journalist need to ask, in this day and age, to describe the “lifeboat effect” of cell-phone-swamping, wherein everybody hops on their cellphone in the wake of a big incident in one tower area, with the result that nobody can make any calls?

    It’s akin to having 10 lifeboats’ worth of people all climb into the first lifeboat launched, which then is rendered useless for all, no matter that there are nine more lifeboats waiting to go shortly.

    This is not a very new phenomenon. We saw it after 9/11 immediately with the regular facilities. We also saw it when the first temporary cellphone towers were setup and powered on in the wake of Katrina.

  4. Richard

    The Tweet giveth and the Tweet taketh away:

    For every sad example that work-in-process news stories will be used and abused as web site promo tools there’s the refreshing bow to the timely. In this case its the pictures of the looting in the wake of the Waco Fertilizer Explosion. Live Looting! In America! It doesn’t get better than that. Not since Rodney King anyway. No local Elmer Fudds with Bushmasters to chase these silly rabbits or prevent their looting.

    As far as the headlines go wasn’t sensationalism and a casual disregard for the facts a popular sales method back in the day with newspaper boys selling the latest scintilatting headline? It wasn’t util the AM paper that they got the facts ‘right’?

  5. Richard

    Good column today. We are still savages. We are so used to our own cultural brutality it doesn’t even register.

    Drones? Go no further than the Philly abortion doc.

    Nurse Cross graphically described witnessing Dr. Gosnell cut the necks of several babies while she worked at the clinic. She recalled being present for more than 10 instances in which babies were delivered alive by patients given abortion drugs.

    “Were those babies breathing?” Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore asked.

    “Yes,” Cross replied.

    And then there was the time a mother gave birth while sitting on the toilet.

    “It was swimming a bit,” she said, “basically, trying to get out of the toilet.”

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