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Every year in mid April Boston, Massachusetts holds it’s legendary marathon. The Boston Marathon is considered to be quite a challenge not only to sign up for it, but also to actually run the 26.2 miles required to complete the race. On April 15,2013 runners from all over the world gathered in Boston to test their endurance. This years marathon would end a little differently than previous years. At 2:56pm, almost 5 hours after the first wave of elite runners started two separate bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
From that moment on the news, media, radio, and social networks blew up with information about this act of terror. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media became some of the first sources of information. For this essay I took a look at five separate news articles written over a 24 hours time span. I look at how accurate the news actually is and I point out where they made mistakes and where they were all spot on.
Before examining these articles I first had to decide on criteria to judge them on. There are many different pieces of a news article that must be present for an article to be considered accurate. In order to be fair and get a good idea of which article was most accurate I used the “Deconstructive Guide”(2008,pg.99) written by H. Schneider and P. Schreiber.
The first article I looked at, “Boston bomb blasts kill 3, injure 130” was published The Spokesman Review on April 15,2013. It was written by a host of reporters around the world and consists of an initial story followed by a timeline of the Boston Marathon Bombings.
The story covered what information was readily available, but because of the speed used to get the article out a few mistakes were made. For example the initial article stated that there were 2 people killed and around 22 injured. Later it was found that there were 3 people killed and over 130 people injured. They had a pretty insightful way of fixing their mistakes however. They created a timeline containing more accurate information. I believe, though I have no evidence of this, that this timeline was not written as things happened but was instead written after the fact so as to cover up the mistakes made in the original article. However the article’s timeline does a good job of giving information as it is happening, and is quick to publish what they here. As the story unfolded new details and facts arose that contradicted previous statements. Some contradictions were made when it was assumed that this was an act of terror and that these people may have terrorist intentions. Because this wasn’t your typical news article there very few news sources cited, but those that were cited were ones of quality. Sources such as CNN, The Federal Aviation Administration. Also when the author quotes a person he gives credit, and at points he quoted the police or medical units. For the most part this article ends up to be fairly accurate and informative. The author does a good job at presenting unbiased information and simply giving the facts of the story.
The second article I analyzed was a short breaking news article followed by a lengthier article written by Josh Levs and Monte Plott entitled “Boy, 8, one of 3 killed in bombings at Boston Marathon; scores wounded”. The initial breaking news story was published by CNN on April 15,2013 and it’s longer counterpart was published 3 days later on April 18,2013. Using sources such as the Boston Chief of Police, Boston’s fire Chief, and the Boston Marathon’s Facebook page the authors were able to piece together just enough information to publish a news article. While being prompt and packed with information, this article similarly to the previous one I discussed contains incomplete and inaccurate information. The article states that there were 2 people dead and 46 people injured. As you can see there is already a trend starting to happen when news stations output information as fast as possible, they sometimes get information wrong. The authors do however to a good job of filling in other information that is relevant to the situation. Facts such as the FAA putting a Temporary Flight Restriction over the area that was bombed, or that major metropolitan areas such as New York and San Francisco have been alerted and heightened security. I am not going to get into too much detail about the longer article published on April 18, but I found it to be much more accurate, telling us that there were actually 3 people killed and over 144 people being treated. This second article gives much more information that is more reliable and in depth. It includes information on the manhunt for the people responsible and fills in some of the blank areas that were left as a result of the first article. All things considered, these 2 authors did a good job of providing necessary information and give readers a first hand look as to what is going on at that moment in time.
“2 Killed, Dozens Injured In Bombings At Boston Marathon; ‘An Ongoing Event, ‘Say Police” written by Dan Bigman was the third article I decided to look at. The article was initially published by Forbes.com on April 15, 2013 at 3:11pm just 20 minutes after the bombs went off. It was later updated 2 hours later due to some factual error, and then a final update was given around 10pm that night. The author starts the article by giving a fairly graphic description of the bombing, explaining exactly what happened when and for only being 20 minutes after the bombing it is fairly accurate; which leads me to think he may have had good sources. This articles content was similar to that of the previous ones but I seem to have gotten more information out of this article. The author gave straight facts unbiased despite having made a few errors. At this point I am seeing quite the trend in how reporters do things. They first get as much information as quickly as possible and get it out into media as fast as possible. Then later after more facts become available, they write a follow-up article giving additional information, and sometimes correcting what they said previously. What really impressed me about this series of articles was that it had the most follow-up articles of all the ones I looked at. After reading the third installment of this story I felt like I understood everything that had happened, and even some of the politics that came afterwards. I came away from reading this article feeling as though my knowledge of the Boston Marathon Bombing was complete and not lacking anything.
The fourth article I read was, like the first, was a timeline of the bombing. It was written by Susan Vela on April 16,2013 at 5:00pm and published by Michigan Live. This timeline was written in story form. The author’s sources were runners of the marathon that she talked to afterwards. She starts out the timeline with a few stories of runners getting ready to run and their pre-race ritual. She describes the morning of the race as chilly, clear, and blue (Susan Vela), a perfect day for running. This timeline was similar to the first but differed in a few areas. For one she got most of her information from runners and people at the scene, which helps her information to be credible. Getting that first hand perspective really gave a lot of life to the article and at points put you right there at the marathon during all the chaos. Her sources seemed to all be valid and she did a good job of presenting the information well. I am not a big fan of the timeline style, when it comes to stories like this. I feel as though they give too much side information that doesn’t need to be there. In my opinion she could have done a better job at presenting hard facts instead of telling me what a runner had for breakfast. Overall it was well written and eventually got around to telling me most of the facts about the bombing, but as I mentioned earlier, left me feeling somewhat “out of the loop.”
the fifth and final article I evaluated was written by Michael Winter, David Leon Moore, Susan Davis and Gary Strauss on April 16,2013 at 4:36pm. The article was published by USA Today and was entitled “Explosions Rock Boston Marathon Finish.” This article, like the one published by Forbes, starts out by giving an intense description of what happened and specifically focused on the death of an 8-year old boy. I believe this was a tactic used by the authors to get the readers attention and possibly cause an emotional reaction that would help this article to really hit home with a lot of people. The article is solid right off the bat. Despite being a day late to the media circle it nails all the facts on the first shot. That is what makes this article the number one article, out of all the ones I evaluated. Not only is this article published by a quality source, it has multiple authors that have their work in it. When multiple reporters do separate research and compare notes, it is often much easy to get facts right. The reporters list all their sources right at the beginning of the article giving essential credibility to their work. This to me is one of the most important parts to a good article. If I am going to trust the information put out by a reporter I need to know where he got that information. Not only is this article informative, but it contains video footage and a slideshow at the end to visually show the effects of the bombs.
After reading five articles about the Boston Marathon Bombing, not only do I have a good idea of exactly what happened but I also found out exactly what makes an article a good one. I found that it is not necessarily how fast a reporter spits out information that makes it quality, but sometimes it is taking a day to make sure the facts are right before publishing an article. In the end it doesn’t matter how fast something is published, if it is lacking information or stating facts incorrectly, the quality and credibility of the article decreases dramatically. Despite the fact that a few reporters got things wrong and made mistakes I am willing to accept that. This tragedy was not an easy thing to cover, due to the fact that it was an “on-going event” as was stated by many reporters. All things considered these reporters did a good job of gathering, and presenting facts in such a way as to inform the reader of the current situation.
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