Friday, September 11, 2009

CNN, not the Coast Guard, should apologize for today's Potomac "shots fired" scare

Video of CNN's erroneous scare broadcast (h/t The Daily Beast)

The long and short of this story is that CNN screwed up. The network went live with a "story" about Coast Guard boats engaging a suspicious craft on the Potomac River this morning, as 9/11 ceremonies were underway at the Pentagon. In fact, what happened was that someone at CNN monitoring open radio traffic mistook a routine Coast Guard training exercise for the real thing and blasted the "story" out to the nation. Other news media scrambled to report it as well, and based on these news bulletins, some public agencies took steps (e.g., flights were grounded at the nearby airport). You can read the details here.

Not surprisingly, CNN and some other media tried to lay the error at the Coast Guard's door, suggesting that it was foolhardy to hold any training exercise on 9/11. But the Coast Guard refused to apologize -- rightly so -- a spokesman for the agency telling the media that this exercise in question was one it conducts several times a week involving a handful of boats and personnel. The White House backed the Coast Guard and laid the blame at the media's door.

Personally, I'm glad the Coast Guard continues to train its people day in, day out to be fully prepared to head off or confront another emergency like 9/11/01, God forbid.

CNN is taking some solace from the fact that the Coast Guard will conduct a "thorough review" of the day's events. In this story, the network does its best to imply that somehow this is still the Coast Guard's fault.

But really, CNN should be making the apologies. They would do themselves a favor by conducting a thorough review of their own to figure out how they can better report the actual news.

Any thoughts? Post a comment.

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