(Politico) - The inaccurate report by CNN and other news organizations about an arrest in the Boston bombing case was arguably one of the most flagrant errors on a story of major national consequence in years.
When the news organizations later corrected their mistakes, there seemed to be something missing — any big shows of contrition, or even a sense of the magnitude of the error.
It fell to Twitter and the merciless mockery of Jon Stewart, who devoted much of “The Daily Show” to skewering CNN’s John King, to call out the media for their failures.
In an earlier era, many news veterans told POLITICO, a wrong report on a story the whole world was watching would have produced major repercussions — groveling apologies from reporters and editors, journalism seminars on the dangers of letting rumor outpace fact, and maybe even a few firings at the outlets involved.
In a new media era, many journalists — and perhaps many in the audience as well — seem to accept that information on a big story is fluid and fragmentary, and are ready to move on without pausing long for either apology or explanation, other than to blame their sources.
“Clearly there was confusion or some misinformation,” King told viewers. During more than 25 years at The Associated Press and CNN, King fashioned a reputation as one of his generation’s most dogged reporters.
As of Thursday afternoon, Fox News, CNN, the AP and The Boston Globe had still not apologized for incorrect reporting more than 24 hours earlier. The AP said Wednesday that a suspect was in custody. King and then Fox said an arrest had been made. The Globe tweeted that a suspect was being taken to the courthouse.
“It may be less momentous when you make a mistake because there’s so much news coming and it’s so fast that the next report just overtakes the last one,” said David Westin, president of ABC News from 1997 to 2010. “It used to be you would go on the air and make a formal retraction.”