The copy-cat nature of the news media, the questionable reliance of its sources, and the truthfulness of its reporting was on full display for all to see yesterday.
This copy-cat nature I’ve noted before. I’ve shown how once something is stated it becomes accepted as fact by those who follow without critical examination. The suggestion that Whitey and John Connolly knew each other from Old Harbor Project, the idea that Whitey became an informant back in 1965, or 1971 or before Steve Flemmi. These were all put out early and have been rubber stamped continually since even though they are false.
Yesterday, a little before two o’clock CNN’s John King, a Dorchester lad, was first up to tell us his unnamed sources told him the fiend who caused the Marathon Terrorist Attack had been arrested. He had earlier suggested “a dark skinned male” had been identified. In truth, no one had been identified or arrested.
Shortly after CNN’s report, Fox News, AP and the Boston Globe likewise reported their sources had reported the arrest. The Globe pushing the envelope said the suspect was in custody and being taken to the US district court in South Boston. That set off a mad rush to that location.
I can understand CNN getting it wrong. John King’s source had bad information and it wasn’t properly vetted. I have no problem if the other media reported that CNN said the suspect is in custody. But they didn’t.
They claimed to have their own sources. Yet it’s hard to believe there were all these other unnamed sources out there with equally false information. The only way to explain this is that what some media outlets report as being sources are the reports they listen to from other media outlets but feel diminished if they give that other outlet credit. They’d rather lie.
CNN later reported that it had “three credible sources on both local and federal levels. Based on this information we reported our findings.” It is amazing that CNN suggested it relied on “three credible sources.” Their sources were not credible. They gave them false information. That is not being credible. Nor is CNN when it says three people got something so obviously wrong.
Yesterday, the Globe’ Shelley Murphy reported in the lead-in line to the story about the misstatement, “Public confusion engulfed the investigation.” It’d seem the better lead-in to be, “Media lies have confused the public.”
Yesterday the Globe explained its erroneous reporting telling us the information that the suspect was in custody (and was on his way to the federal court) ”was attributed to an official with knowledge of the case.” How vague can something be.
It seems if that official exists his knowledge isn’t too good. Yet, the Globe went on in the same article to write about other things this same official had told it. These things had also been reported in other news media which made one feel the Globe is doing lots of cribbing..
Today the Globe mentioned yesterday’s error saying it was “relying on information provided by an official familiar with the investigation. . . . After further reporting, the Globe is no longer convinced its previously reliable source had accurate information.”
What is surprising is that in one of the most significant cases in the city’s history the Globe had only one source; the source it had did not have the correct information; and the Globe recklessly reported what that source told it. It did no checking. None. It didn’t even call to verify it. The Guardian in London when it heard the report picked up the telephone. It reported “In a series of phone calls to the FBI’s national office, a spokeswoman confirmed “no arrests had been made.””
Not all the media followed blindly. Pete Williams of NBC News pushed back against the media frenzy and said his sources told him not only no arrest was made but a suspect had not been identified. CNN’s own law enforcement expert Tom Fuentes appeared on air at 2:25 pm debunking the CNN claim by saying he has three sources stating no arrests. The New York Times held off.
Most of the stories written about Whitey and the events surrounding him have either no named sources or suspect sources such as Steve Flemmi and John Martorano whose information is as accurate as the Globe’s “official.” It should be considered in that light as being suspect.
There is a greater lesson to be drawn here. Have you noticed how many stories of importance rely upon unnamed officials or authorities not authorized to speak? It has become almost routine for American media reporting on a major stories to have all these unnamed characters filling in the gaps. Yesterday we’ve seen that reports based on many of these sources are plainly wrong.
Here because the lie was so blatant it was discovered and exposed quickly. That is not always the case. We’ve seen the media’s reckless reliance on unworthy sources; we’ve seen the copy-cat nature of its reporting. A lie not easily exposed like most lies will soon become a truth when we have the media reporting the lie over and over again.