Chris Hayes' opening segment on All In was superb. He very clearly and precisely said what we all thought on Wednesday when CNN claimed a suspect had been arrested in Boston and that suspect was 'dark-skinned.'
Since 9-11, CNN has really changed, and not for the better. When I worked there, they were far more concerned with being right over being first. But that standard has been shattered, along with any pretense of objectivity. Hayes gives it a name:
This wasn't just some abstraction happening on cable news that no one was paying attention to, and I understand people make mistakes, but the bungling of the story today mattered. This is video outside the courthouse in Boston after all that frenzied, inaccurate reporting this afternoon. A crowd has gathered. To be sure, a lot of these people are reporters and media folks, but they are people who show up in hopes of seeing a suspect brought in.
Among them were likely anguished, angry people whose city has just been through a terrible trauma who wanted to see with their own eyes someone suspected of being responsible for it, a suspect who would not even exist yet but were told by the news was already in custody. And the one thing people knew about the suspect, the only thing they thought they knew for sure, thanks to CNN's reporting was the following descriptor:
It was described to me as a dark-skinned male individual.
I was told by a source that was a law enforcement official that this was a dark-skinned male. Source had been briefed on the investigation, I should say, that the suspect was a dark-skinned male.
Forget about the fact that CNN got wrong the information they said they had. Just explain to me precisely what news value exists in the adjective "dark skinned." What exactly that's newsworthy is communicated in that phrase? A dark-skinned individual could be my swarthier Italian relatives or the Ethiopian that won the Boston Marathon before it was bombed on Monday and everyone in between.
No, that's not the purpose of that phrase. That phrase is not there to convey journalism. What 'dark-skinned' indicates is aha, all you folks who thought it was a bad Muslim who did this, you were right.
Because, of course, let's be honest, that is the subtext that says all of this.
But our job, our job in the media is not to flatter those knee-jerk presumptions for the sake of momentary titilation, it's to wrestle that to the ground and get the facts right.
He's absolutely right. Shades of Oklahoma City, when everyone was sure it was some Arab terrorist who blew up the Murrah Building and not the very white Timothy McVeigh. In the face of the unknown, we turn to reporters and those reporters seem to lack filters to pass along actual facts. Or they think because a cop tells them it was a dark-skinned guy, they should take that at face value, unverified and pass it along.
You'd think by now they'd have some clue, just based on their error ratios, but it seems they're driven by some weird need to constantly demonize Muslims -- Arab Muslims in particular -- rather than getting the news right.
Props to Hayes for saying it out loud.