Watching The Sausage Get Made

Making news — writing articles, interviewing people, editing video — it is often compared to sausage getting made. No one wants to see it until it’s nice and tidy, and hopefully tasty.

But with the advent of social media and a 24-hour news cycle, more and more people are now getting to watch the sausage get made.

On Wednesday, April 17, 2013, that sausage was ugly. It was early in the afternoon when I started seeing tweets that CNN was reporting that a suspect had been identified in the Boston bombings. I pulled up CNN.com on my computer at work and started listening to John King.

It was all according to sources close to the investigation. No one had confirmed this; no one was talking about it. But CNN is a reputable news source, right, so it must be right, right?

Wrong. And not just a little wrong, very wrong.

Not only was there no suspect identified, but King had gone as far as to report that this person had been arrested. Again, quite wrong.

Every network and local station had scrambled to get on air, to get reporters and photographers to the federal courthouse to await the arrival of this mystery suspect. A bomb threat was called into the courthouse causing an evacuation and confusion. And for what?

For nothing.

King’s “source” was wrong. King was wrong. CNN was wrong. And all of the stations, newspapers, and online outlets that reported, “As CNN is reporting…” were wrong.

At the end of the day, no one was arrested. A suspect had not been identified. And CNN was backpedaling like a monkey on a unicycle.

It was a sad day for Journalism.

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