September 16, 2013

Breaking news is never pretty — anyone who hungers for facts and speed during a story as fluid as Monday’s shootings in Washington, D.C., is asking for a lot. Still, there were some notable screwups today, like…

Identifying suspect without official confirmation
NBC and CBS retracted reports identifying the shooter as Rollie Chance. By that time, online detectives had found Chance’s LinkedIn page and a photo that purports to be him.


NBC News was more careful later:


Reporting numbers
The Washington Post reported three shooters, then revised the number to two. At a press conference Monday afternoon, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said one suspect was dead and police were looking for two more.


Describing shooter’s race
The Drudge Report, for some reason, picked up on a description of one of the shooters being bald and black. Lanier described one of the missing suspects as white, the other as black.

The white male, D.C. police later said, is not a suspect.


Quoting police scanners
Seriously, don’t do it.


Related: Navy Shooting Coverage Feels Depressingly Familiar (HuffPost)

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City…
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