Our view: Reporting on a tragedy

DKS Editors

Last week in the United States seemed like a never-ending nightmare, full of events that shook our faith in humanity and glued millions of people to their television sets as they watched the news unfold.

On Monday, two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston marathon, killing three people and wounding nearly 200 others. The next day, a letter addressed to President Obama tested positive for the deadly poison ricin, which authorities deny had any link to the Boston explosions due to the date it was mailed. Wednesday evening, a blast at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, killed at least 14 people and injured 200 others. Bodies are still being recovered from the explosion site. Friday, there was an extensive manhunt to find two brothers suspected of setting off the bombs at the marathon on Monday.

One of the two suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed in a shootout with police, and later that evening, his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was taken into custody following a standoff with police at a house in Boston’s suburbs.

As student journalists, we watched last week’s events unfold both as American citizens and news conveyers. We tried to keep up on the latest developments coming from national news sources and relayed them to our audiences via KentWired and our social media pages. We have come to rely on certain national news organizations to follow when it comes to big national news, so on Wednesday, when CNN, the Associated Press (whom we usually get our news updates from) and Fox News all reported an arrest had been made in the case, we, along with hundreds of other news outlets across the country, retweeted the information. CNN then dug itself even deeper when one of its reporters claimed the arrestee was a said to be “dark-skinned male.” Minutes later, the news organizations debunked their initial claims, probably hoping no one would notice — but they did. Twitter users ran amok with CNN’s blunder, while we scurried to correct the information we, too, had posted.

In the world of journalism, there is a constant race to be the first to report major news, but we are taught and understand that accuracy reigns supreme over speed. We were embarrassed to have reported the information, assuming the Associated Press, who is known for its accuracy, had the correct information. We learned a lot of lessons last week, and we hope our readers did too — don’t take everything you hear at face value.