Boston bombings: News reliability in times of crisis.


Last week on Monday, April 15th during the traditional Patriot’s Day Marathon in Boston, two bombs exploded near the finish line. Amid the panic and chaos of the explosions, news agencies like CNN, Fox News and the New York Post were quick to report about non-American citizens being detained or questioned under the suspicion of involvement in the tragic events of the Boston Marathon.

The Boston tragedy revealed a darker side of the American society and media by pointing out their bias towards minorities when dealing with traumatic events. According to a CBS news report, a scared and injured Saudi teenager was arrested by three Boston PD detectives who considered him a suspect “because he seemed to be moving very deliberately away from the blasts”. Later that day, federal authorities searched the suspect’s apartment, but no connection to the incident could be found.

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Two Moroccan teenagers have also been in the media’s attention when the NY Post reported on Thursday that the FBI was looking for them. The two told Aljazeera that they had been harassed online by the public, which was quick to blame them. Salah Eddin Barhoum and Yassine Zaime ‘s pictures were posted on websites whose users were looking through pictures of the marathon bombings for suspects. People carrying bags were a focus of the investigation because there was speculation that the bombs were carried in backpacks. This highlights the problems that social media sources can unintentionally cause, thus demonstrating the public thirst for information.

However, the pattern of blame is not limited only to individuals. CNN focused on the traditional terrorist groups, reporting on a statement released by the Pakistani Taliban who denied involvement in the attack. The Council on American-Islamic Relations also condemned the bombings amidst fears of a possible outbreak of Arab-blame: “American Muslims, like Americans of all backgrounds, condemn in the strongest possible terms today’s cowardly bomb attack on participants and spectators of the Boston Marathon” (Gibson, D. and Markoe, L. 2013). The FBI chief of Boston, Rick Deslauriers, expressed his contempt at the “amateur sleuthing that filled the vacuum of information” (Aljazeera, 2013). FBI even released a statement on the 17 of April 2013 criticizing the media for issuing reports based on unofficial sources. The Huffington Post also reported on the bias that was taking over FOX news. NBC and CNN were also criticized by John Stewart in The Daily Show for their inaccuracy.

This bias is fueled by the social demand for information which corporate media sources speculate to get an edge in the competitive system they are part of. As a consequence, this means that news is often rushed and its accuracy is highly questionable. The significance of 9/11 and the feeling of resentment that has grown in the American public towards minorities, especially the Muslims, makes rushed news highly unreliable and dangerous to the point that it can endanger innocent people’s lives with low accountability.

By: Hurkan Karas

        Alexandru Movila

        Giovanni Baldoni

        Isabel Elena Esteban.

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