Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Assigning Blame for the Boston Bombing

It happened yesterday, apparently a terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon. Two explosions, a fire in the JFK library, some uncertain number of other bombs found and isolated or detonated. People dead and injured, patients still in area hospitals with critical injuries.

Like for almost every major news event of the last 35 years (Reagan shooting, Waco fire, 9-11) I was at work. Instead of learning about it via a call from my wife, who was driving to Oklahoma City at the time, I learned it when I got out of a staff meeting and looked at Facebook. I had to make a quick dash to my mother-in-law's place then to the P.O., and programming on the radio filled me in on the facts.

Except the only facts, at that time, were: multiple explosions happened at the finish line of the Boston Marathon; people were injured; and rest of the race was halted. Oh, that's not all the radio announcers and commentators said. The told of the library fire and at least one person said it came from a bomb. The number of people dead was 2, 3, or 12 in various reports. The number injured ranged from 20 to 100. One of the dead was an 8 year old child, said in some reports to be a boy and in others to be a girl. ATF officials had found anywhere from 1 to 5 non-exploded devices.

For me this was all eerily similar to September 11, 2001. The news reports, both television and radio, gave us all kinds of rumors. That the twin towers were hit was undisputed, supported by multiple video feeds. That the Pentagon was hit was undisputed for the same reason. But I heard reports, on TV and radio, that the White House had been hit, the Capitol had been hit, that anywhere from 1 to 3 commercial jets were down elsewhere. Rumors were passed off as news, sometimes with "confirmation," sometimes without.

I wanted news yesterday, and there wasn't much news being reported. I suppose the radio thinks that they have to fill the air time, and filling it with speculation is as good as filling it with news. At home after work, turning into the television, it was pretty much the same. Lots of speculation, a smidgen of news. The speculation was mainly about who would do such a thing, and for what purpose. The possibility of these explosions being unrelated to terrorism, e.g. a gas line explosion, were immediately dismissed. That was an assumption that appears to have been correct, one of the few assumptions that was.

Just stating my opinion here, I'd rather news organizations just state what they know, and what they are trying to learn. Don't speculate. If commentators are filling the role of anchormen due to the news, put on their reporter's hat and don't speculate. Just give us the facts. How well I remember Dan Rather solemnly intoning, "James Brady is dead" on that March 1981 day. He was wrong, and I haven't listened to CBS news since (except during times I wanted to be abused).

So, all you news organizations who read my blog, cut out the speculation! Just give us the facts as you know them.

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