We should caution…
We need to be careful now…
This hasn’t been confirmed…
We’re hearing reports…
Sources are telling us, but…
If you were to add up the number of reports that started this way throughout the week—particularly since some media outlets (New York Post, Boston Globe, AP, CNN, FOX) were incorrectly reporting an arrest on Wednesday in the Boston Terror attacks—you’d be using commas in the total amount by now. And as a media observer and columnist, it’s nothing short of fascinating to watch television news falling over themselves in their caution.
But the press has made plenty of mistakes in big spots before, so what’s different this time around?
Social media, that’s what. Especially Twitter. Its users have pounded the aforementioned outlets on the arrest-that-never-happened-scenario, and you can just see the effect being felt in the papers and on the tube. All are acting and looking so afraid to make a mistake.
Jon Stewart body slammed CNN’s John King, while Megyn Kelly also got roughed up in the Twitterverse. AP and the Boston Globe, since they’re basically faceless entities, got off relatively easy, but still felt some body blows. All would later be forced to walk back their statements after the FBI refuted them, but all also got a case of the Fonzies in the process.
Fonzies as in Arthur Fonzarelli, the iconic mechanic/player/Uncle of Chachi/Owner of the New Arnold’s who ruled fictitious Milwaukee back in the late 50s and early 60s. The Fonz never didn’t get the girl, hardly ever made a mistake (successfully jumping 14 garbage cans on a motorcycle in Season 3 and a shark in Season 5). But in the rare occasions Fonzarelli did screw up, he couldn’t physically say the words, “I’m sorry,” or “I was wrong.”
Same goes for news outlets when they make a (gasp) mistake in the heat of battle to be first (an increasingly difficult race to win considering social media and newspapers’ ability to update stories on the fly). A simple, “Sorry, we made a mistake.” Or…”We got it wrong, folks,” is about as rare as seeing the Fonz without a leather jacket and/or t-shirt. On a side note, it’s tough to absorb seeing Henry Winkler (in his non-Fonz, wimpy voice) doing commercials on cable news for reverse mortgages…
Back to the biggest story of the decade–what transpired Friday morning in the Boston terror attacks manhunt, complete with bombs being tossed during car chases and shootouts with police–was a preview of how huge, unexpected events will be absorbed in the future. Know this: There are now six big news networks.
Here’s how my early morning went on Friday:
Couldn’t sleep around 2:00 AM. Rolled over and checked my phone to see who won the Yankee game (originally fell asleep in extra innings). Yanks lose. Randomly go over to Facebook, where one friend simply puts on his status: “Looks like we got ‘em.” It’s obvious what he means and I’m tempted to turn on the TV, but too lazy to go out to the living room, so I turn to Twitter.