Knight Center
Knight Center

JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Despite errors, broadcasters get good marks on their coverage of Boston bombings



Viewers were forgiving of media fumbles during the coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing last week but the credibility of one of the United States’ biggest news brands, CNN, was badly damaged, according to several sources. 

A Pew Center poll released on Tuesday, April 23, reported that roughly seven out of ten people surveyed said the media did an “excellent” or “good” job covering the attack. Only 22 percent gave the media “fair” or “poor” marks for their coverage. According to the poll, the marathon bombing drew more attention than any other terrorist event since the attacks on Sept. 11. 

A follow-up poll from the Huffington Post and YouGov on Wednesday, April 24, echoed many of the Pew report’s findings but added that CNN’s credibility had been damaged. The cable news network—along with The Associated Press, Fox News and The Boston Globe—erroneously reported that authorities had arrested a suspect on Wednesday, April 17. 

According to the Huffington Post survey, viewers trusted CNN less than any other news network. CNN reporter and Boston native John King said in an interview on WTOP in Washington, D.C., that the episode was “embarrassing,” according to Slate. 

Fox News, despite also flubbing news of the arrest, was the best rated, according to The Huffington Post poll.

New York Times media critic David Carr wrote on Sunday, April 21, that the “stumble could not have come at a worse time for CNN” as the 24-hour news network seeks to re-establish itself as a news leader in an increasingly competitive cable news market and usurping new-comers, like Twitter. The network also ended up with egg on its face when it mistakenly reported that the Supreme Court had overturned President Obama’s health care law in June. 

Despite losing some of its credibility, viewers still rushed to change the channel to CNN. According to the Times, CNN attracted one of its biggest audiences in a decade for its coverage of the manhunt of the bombers on Friday, April 19. 



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