Keller @ Large: Communication Breakdown

BOSTON (CBS) – It may not seem all that significant in the grand scheme of things that have happened this week, but there’s been a breakdown of communication between the news media and law enforcement that deserves a mention.

Wednesday afternoon, a number of well-respected news organizations and reporters, both local and national, reported that a Boston Marathon bombings suspect was in custody. Some of them reported conflicting details of the suspect’s appearance.

But by late afternoon, the FBI had issued a rare public statement dismissing the reports as “inaccurate” and careless, possibly even jeopardizing the investigation.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

As there often are on big stories, there have been some egregious blunders in the coverage. When you base a story as significant as this one on a single source, as one organization did, you’re asking for trouble.

But as you form your judgment on the media’s performance, consider this: leaks like those so widely reported on Wednesday don’t come from a broken faucet. They are given to reporters by law enforcement officials.

In some cases Wednesday, we’re told multiple sources confirmed the information that was later deemed “inaccurate,” an interesting choice of adjective when “false” was available.

Were those sources lying? If so, why?

Or were they just misinformed? And if so, why did so many parrot the same misinformation at once?

The relentless media pressure for scoops is problematic, no question, and there’s no excuse for negligent journalism.

But if law enforcement can’t control top-secret information or get their story straight, maybe the press isn’t the only institution that needs to clean up its act.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

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