CNN, trying to be first and best, apparently is wrong on bombing suspect


CNN indisputably first reported this afternoon that authorities arrested a suspect in Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings.

Then CNN became first again, to get it wrong. The Justice Department and the Boston Police Department announced there is no suspect.

CNN may prove correct and the authorities are just trying to plug a leak. But you don’t get to live in a gray area in a social media world. You are right or you are wrong. At this point, it looks like CNN blew it, again.

When are these people going to understand that they’re dicing and slicing their credibility to push to be first all the time? It’s an almost impossible goal anyway. Media firsts today go to eye-witness Tweets or one-person web sites.

CNN is tanking in the ratings against the other cable news giants, so what do its reporters and editors do? They press too hard, skip past their rules and safety bumps, and come out too soon and wrong and destroy their dwindling credibility.

Twitter is brutalizing the “Can’t (K)Now Network,” for putting first ahead of right.

In so doing, CNN creates its own crisis, not to mention trying to report the story. Chaos, a sure sign of crisis, no doubt reigns in Atlanta and CNN’s Boston bureau.

It’s not only a self-inflicted crisis — the worst kind — but if CNN were right, it would hardly have sold an additional cable package or bumped it a ratings point for any lasting time.

Again, CNN may in the end prove correct, or it may be, in a worst case, completely incorrect. But there’s no doubt it got out too far, too fast for all the wrong reasons and the spinning wood chipper of social media is chewing it into splinters.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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