In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, one question was left to be answered: Who could have done this?
Four days later, law enforcement identified two men that they believed were responsible for the explosions that killed three and injured nearly 200 near the finish line of the marathon.
However, a day earlier, reporters at one cable news organization believed it was they, and only they, who knew the answer.
CNN went live with an exclusive report on Wednesday saying a suspect was not only in custody, but that he was arrested and on his way to a federal courthouse.
Soon other media, including national wire services including the Associated Press and the venerable Boston Globe, began jumping on with the same report. At the same time. several news organizations like NBC and CBS held firm with the report that no arrests had been made.
The conflicting reports were enough to leave even the most informed audience confused.
And then the bottom fell out.
During the next two hours of live on-the-scene coverage, CNN’s report began to fall apart. Quickly.
Report after report were released, stating that members of the media had been too quick to make a call and that video footage only gave the police and FBI officers an idea of a suspect. Instead of retracting statements, CNN plodded through more live coverage and ironically told the viewers that we must proceed with caution because the case was murky.
It wasn’t like they hadn’t done it before.
A similar instance happened with the Newtown shootings last December. Following the initial reports of the school shooting, CNN falsely reported that the shooter was Ryan Lanza, the brother of the real shooter, Adam.
Six months before that, CNN mistakenly reported parts of the Affordable Care Act commonly referred to as “Obamacare” were struck down by the Supreme Court. In reality, a majority of justices upheld the law in a way not apparent after reading the first few pages.
Well, at least they are consistent in something. Inconsistency.
CNN has fallen hard and has fallen fast. For many, the credibility they once had is all but gone as the network has become one of the biggest punchlines in media. For what? The chance to cry “exclusive”?
Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” called the whole shebang “completely (word not allowed in print) wrong” and capped it off by stating, “CNN’s reporters have discovered that they can remove the middleman and spend hours of programming fighting amongst themselves. They have figured out a way to (ditto) in their own mouths.”
Satirical rantings aside, Stewart has a point. CNN has made a habit of being first for the sake of being first. That elusive No. 1 spot and exclusive tag has become more important than accurate reporting.
And that’s what’s scary.
CNN’s jump-first, check-later mentality has caused laughs and eye rolls, but it also wrongfully accused an innocent man of murdering 26, single-handedly caused a snowball of inaccurate reports nationwide and messed up the report of a landmark Supreme Court case, all within the last 12 months.
With a track record like that, it’s no wonder Stewart constantly uses them for fodder for “The Daily Show.” It’s like CNN is determined to keep following the example set by “Dewey defeats Truman.”
Next time a national story breaks, CNN better hope they get it right.
If not, the network are well on its way to becoming the news organization that cried wolf.
Vision managing editor Autumn Allison is a junior journalism major.
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