In retrospect, I now know that my choice to not dwell on the Boston Bombing story yesterday, was a good idea. I was up front about not wanting to indulge in speculation and irresponsible chatter.
When we were getting ready to go on the air, news came out that a suspect had been identified. Then an arrest had been made. A press conference was set for 5 PM. People were ready for good news and resolution. For a hot second, I wondered if I had made the right call. I had scheduled a full day of guests to keep us off the topic, and it looked like the topic was about to take over.
Then the backtracking started. In the span of an hour, the news was "walked back" about the arrest. The press conference was cancelled. And egg was all over the faces of CNN and Fox "news" for jumping into a game of one upsmanship over breaking the breaking news. In the end they news was just shamefully broken.
The need to be first, rather than be right, got the best of both networks. To the credit of NBC and MSNBC, their news reps reported on the other networks' reports, and expressed caution and refused to jump on the bandwagon. In the end, they came out smelling like a rose. A very professional, honorable rose.
By the evening, CNN's Anderson Cooper was on the air and reporting everything that was known, in a very cautious and measured way. And almost apologetically, he refused to allow speculation to be broadcast on his show.
So what happened?
I can tell you what I fear may have happened: the bombers probably got a jump on getting away. Imagine if you were the bomber and you heard the rampant reports that the authorities knew who you were? Time to get out of town, right? Then, what if you heard that an arrest had been made, and it wasn't you? Confused? Over-confident?
The reckless media may have harmed the investigation in their whoring for credit. And that should be unforgivable, and it should be punished.
The investigation goes on. The search goes on. The news is reporting that they authorities have a photo of a man dropping off the 2nd of the two bombs. They are circulating the photo among other law enforcement. And the news media are terrified to give the details. Now.
What a mess.