The news media displayed some journalistic excellence last week in Boston, from heartfelt coverage of the awful bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon to the dramatic final manhunt for the brothers believed to be behind the deadly explosions, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. A fair number of journalistic outrages also emerged, including a New York Post cover implicating two innocent high schoolers. And then there was CNN.
"When big news breaks, we instinctively look to CNN," says David Carr in The New York Times. "We want CNN to be good, to be worthy of its moment. That impulse took a beating last week." The worst moment was John King's blunder on Wednesday, when he falsely reported that police had arrested a suspect. In the Jeff Zucker era, the struggling network's signature story has been a powerless cruise ship floating aimlessly around the Caribbean. "This week, CNN seemed a lot like that ship."
Part of the reason that we still want CNN to be great is that at a moment when information and news seem to have done a jailbreak — bursting forth everywhere in all sorts of ways — it would be nice to have a village common where a reliable provider of news held the megaphone. By marketing itself as the most trusted name in news, CNN is and should be held to a higher standard.
After the erroneous report of a capture, CNN's reporters and anchors seemed to have taken a deep breath and proceeded with caution. On Friday, the network got an early jump on the story, but stayed on cat's paws throughout the day, issuing regular caveats on every bit of information. In the end, NBC broke the news first. [New York Times]
That's one way to critique the media. In another, Jack Shafer at Reuters mounts a spirited counter-argument "in defense of journalistic error," including a limited exoneration of CNN. Jon Stewart at Comedy Central's The Daily Show has his own style of media criticism, and on Monday night his target was CNN. Watch the video: