In the rush to beat the competition, CNN reporter John King reported live from Boston that one of his law enforcement sources stated that the Boston bombing suspect was in custody and would be arraigned in federal court in the afternoon. The “most trusted name in news” got it dead wrong and took over an hour before they backed off their erroneous story.
Monkey see, monkey do, as the Associated Press and Fox News followed suit during that hour. The news outlets were even rebuked by the FBI for their irresponsible reporting (see: The F.B.I. Criticizes the News Media After Several Mistaken Reports of an Arrest).
What does this mean for the future of CNN? The network seems to be somewhat of a legacy news outlet if you will, since their viewership spikes when there are major tragedies or natural disasters (see: Ratings: Fox News, CNN Split Win for Boston Bombings Coverage). The network’s chief, Jeff Zucker, reflected on this when he likened the network to “’that spare tire in the trunk’ – because people remember it when they need it” (see: Jeff Zucker Attributes CNN Criticism To Jealousy: ‘Just Because Jon Stewart Makes Fun Of It Doesn’t Mean He’s Right’).
That’s not exactly a growth vision for the future. Regardless, Zucker has his work cut out for him, because shoddy reporting like that from John King leads to howls of criticism from all corners, deservedly so.
The competition to get the story first has taken a back seat to getting the story right before (see: Supreme Court Health Care Ruling: CNN, Fox News Wrong On Individual Mandate (VIDEO)), which can destroy the careers of on-camera talent and plunge ratings into a trench over time.
An increasing number of consumers are now getting their news online, especially factoring social media sites and rising smartphone and tablet us, as shown in a Pew Research study in 2012.
...when those who get news from cell phones, tablets and other mobile devices are added, that figure grows to 39%. (The 2010 survey asked only about news online.)
The explosive growth of social networking sites has been another contributor to the online search for news, with the percentage saying they saw news or news headlines on social networking sites the previous day increasing from 9% in 2010 to 19%.
Based on these trends, and the demise of the newspaper business that is almost complete, traditional national news outlets better focus on their accuracy or it will eat away at their reputation like corrosion. Some would say the “most trusted name in news” is already rust-ridden.