News Outlets Struggle With Premature Report of Arrest in Boston Bombing

Apr 17, 2013  •  Post A Comment

News outlets on TV and on the Internet were scrambling today to sort out conflicting information about the status of the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombing, with a number of false reports surfacing that indicated an arrest had been made in the case.

The story was rapidly evolving throughout the early afternoon on the East Coast, with cable news channels in particular going back and forth about the “news” of an arrest.

As we approached our deadline, the latest word from investigators was that no arrest had been made. The big news at that point appeared to be that a video clip had been found that showed a person dropping off a bag that officials suspect was one of the bombs.

However, a number of outlets had already reported an arrest. CNN, the Associated Press and the Boston Globe were among the news operations that reported a suspect was in custody, only to later retract those reports.

A headline on Forbes.com read: “Reports: Suspect Held In Boston Bombing Case,” with the story including the following passage:

“Citing officials close to the investigation, the Associated Press and Boston Globe report that a suspect has been taken into custody in the case of Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon. Earlier, CNN reported an arrest had been made but on-air reporting at the network contradicted their online report.”

As of 3 p.m. ET, Reuters was reporting what appears to be a solid lead in the case. “Investigators believe they have identified a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing from security video and an official statement was expected later in the day, a law enforcement source said on Wednesday,” the Reuters story reports. “However, no arrest had been made, three separate government and law enforcement sources told Reuters.”

The report adds: “Earlier, CNN reported that a suspect was in custody, citing law enforcement sources. But then the network cited three sources who said no one was under arrest after all.”

Reuters notes: “The identification of a possible suspect marked the most significant publicly disclosed break since Monday’s blast at the marathon finish line killed three people and injured 176 others. Investigators were also searching through thousands of pieces of evidence from cell phone pictures to shrapnel shards pulled from victims’ legs.”


Headlines found on a Google search around 3 p.m. ET


  1. Here’s how you have to watch big story tv news today. Tune in. Get the initial story. tune out after 5 minutes. Wait 12 hours. Tune in for real substantiated info for 5 more minutes. Wait 24 hours, then repeat every 24hrs. You get vetted info and don’t waste your time, raise your anxiety level and don’t become obsessed.

  2. After CNN finally realized their colossal blunder, Wolf Blitzer actually said “you go with what you have, assuming it’s accurate.”
    What kind of irresponsible, overpaid, egotistical POS “reporter” on a 24 hour news channel actually says that with a straight face??????? How is it acceptable to report unsubstantiated gossip from sources that are not even authorized to talk about the story at hand??? I really hope someone starts a coordinated misinformation campaign aimed at these lazy, dangerous news outfits. Just feed them a constant stream of BS and see what kind of crazy rumors they report as fact. It’s the only way to teach them how to actually do their job: expose their incompetence over and over and embarrass them to the point that nobody can believe anything they say. It may not be accurate, but it will be damn well entertaining. These days, isn’t that the most important thing?

  3. I believe the misinformation campaign has been going on since the beginning of journalism. That is why you verify with 3 different sources before making a complete ass of yourself and channel.

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