Once Again, News Outlets' Rush to Be First Has Consequences
It never fails. Major lapses in both taste and reporting inevitably follow the mass shootings that are becoming all too common in this country.
Fox News Channel couldn't resist using the above "Movie Theater MASSACRE! logo throughout its Friday coverage of the Aurora, Colo. murders. And ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross linked the shooter to the Tea Party before later realizing he had the wrong guy.
The tasteless FNC promotion, complete with breathless voice-over, urged viewers to watch the network's prime-time stars — Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren — for all the latest news on the mass murderer. It served to reduce the shootings, at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, to a cheap B-movie in their own right.
In contrast, rival CNN teased its prime-time coverage with a "Shooting In Colorado" logo. MSNBC is using the equally unobjectionable "Tragedy In Colorado." So far 12 people are dead and another 59 injured.
ABC News re-fueled the "liberal media conspiracy" tanks with its early reporting that the suspected, incarcerated shooter, 24-year-old James Holmes, may have been a Tea Party supporter. Said Ross: "There is a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colo. page on the Colorado Tea Party site as well, talking about him joining the Tea Party last year. Now, we don't know if this is the same Jim Holmes, but it is a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado."
The network later apologized on-line for "disseminating that information before it was properly vetted." (The apology was placed in an editor's note at the top of a story headlined, "Aurora Suspect James Holmes' Mother: 'You Have the Right Person'", in which the suspect's San Diego-based mother confirms that the shooter was her son.) And Ross himself said on the air: "An earlier report that I had was incorrect that he was connected with the Tea Party. In fact that's a different Jim Holmes."
In other words, never mind. But the rush to be first, rather than verify such a divisive association, has given Rush Limbaugh something else to foment about. He's already denounced The Dark Knight Rises as a premeditated, anti-Mitt Romney manifesto because its principal villain is named Bane. You know, as in Bain Capital. For the record — not that this will matter to Limbaugh — the creator of the Bane villain, Chuck Dixon, says he's a "lifelong conservative." He also says that Limbaugh's theory is "silly."
The three major cable news networks of course will continue to cover the tragedy and its aftermath all day and into the night. Not to be left out, ABC, CBS and NBC all have prime-time specials planned for Friday. CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley and NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams both will be in Aurora for Friday's dinnertime editions while ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer remains in New York for that network's "special edition."
ABC News also sent TV writers a timeline of its early "breaking news" coverage of the shootings. At 7:07 a.m. (central), for instance, Good Morning America co-anchor George Stephanopoulos reported that James Holmes had been identified as the suspected shooter. The timeline of course managed to not include Ross's significant reporting error.
By the way, ABC's Friday prime-time special is being titled Tragedy in Colorado: The Movie Theater Massacre. But at least there's no exclamation point at the end. Thanks for small favors.
Read more by Ed Bark at unclebarky.com