FBI Boston: Media should ‘exercise caution…before reporting’

Federal Bureau of Investigation | Associated Press

The FBI has made a rare foray into media criticism after numerous outlets erroneously reported an arrest in the Boston Marathon bombings:

Contrary to widespread reporting, no arrest has been made in connection with the Boston Marathon attack. Over the past day and a half, there have been a number of press reports based on information from unofficial sources that has been inaccurate. Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the media, particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting.

Yowch. For its part, the Associated Press explains why it went with the story: A “law enforcement official briefed on the investigation” who “told the Associated Press and other news outlets on Wednesday a suspect was in custody.”

The official who spoke to The Associated Press did so on condition of anonymity and stood by the information even after it was disputed.

The official was not authorized to divulge details of the investigation. The official had said the suspect was expected in federal court in Boston.

Here’s a Storify that looks at how the conflicting reports have played out.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=717583338 Karl Idsvoog

    If journalists simply conduct themselves as professional journalists and maintain basic journalistic standards, you don’t have a front page like the NY Post.

    Journalism requires verification.

    Journalism is not blogging or rumor or propaganda or advertising.

    Journalists report what they have been able to verify through multiple sources, solid documentation or first-hand witness and observation. Journalism is not being a human microphone stand. Journalism is not about being first with inaccurate information, it’s about providing accurate information and providing context and asking questions that need to be asked. That’s something neither Rupert nor Roger has ever understood.

  • JTFloore

    yes, it’s a messy story by its very nature, but the media I have read and heard has not claimed to have “three credible sources” for what it is reporting. sometimes reporters are too eager to believe what they want to believe, so they report what they have been told by people who may have little or no real reason to know what they are telling journalists.

  • Lee N.

    It appears the media overdid it yesterday, but before we criticize too much, I would like to point out this situation is not the same as the SCOTUS reporting last year. That reporting was on the release of a document that everyone received at the same time — a definite rush to misunderstanding and inaccuracy. This reporting on the bombing investigation is of an evolving story with multiple sources, perspectives and agendas. And the media’s role is to report/verify the truth as it best can be known. Even today, we truly don’t know what happened yesterday, whether anyone was questioned/detained/etc. If a news organization finds 3 credible sources that says there was an arrest and/or someone in “custody,” then I see nothing wrong with reporting it, even if that turns out to be contradicted later. Remember, this is all just the first draft of history. The media has a role to play here and yes, it is to exercise responsibility and restraint, but it’s not to totally accept the “official version,” either, and ultimately search for the truth for our readers and nation. That’s a strength, not a weakness of our Democracy and free press.

  • LaurenceGlavin

    As soon as the false report indicated that the “suspect” was “brown-skinned”, the commenters at the Boston Herald’s website went ballistic. I guess budget cuts at the feisty tabloid have resulted in nobody overseeing the comments section….anything goes.