Mark Grimm


Say What? Explaining the Media Chaos in Boston Bombings

Have you heard? Breaking news coverage of huge stories has become variety show programming. In the span of about 15 minutes Wednesday, I saw or read these reports from media outlets:
AP, CNN, Fox:
An arrest has been made in the Boston Marathon bombings
ABC News:
An arrest is imminent in the Boston bombings
No arrest has been made in the Boston bombings

Conflicting Reports

Scratching your head? How could experienced journalists who know being careful is so important present such conflicting reports?

Since official public notification usually runs behind what “sources” tell the media in such big stories, journalists rely on their sources to get the scoop. There is fierce competition and a 24-hour news cycle. Being first on a major story can make a journalist’s career or provide him/her with incredible exposure. They almost beg their sources for hot tips and sources love to give them. It makes them feel important or they like being owed a favor, or some times, they just feel the real story needs to be told.

Some times, even good sources get it wrong. They’re not in the loop as much as they think, they misunderstand what was said, or things change unexpectedly right after they talk with the reporter. That’s why multiple sources are preferable. As consumers, we’ve also become accustomed to screw ups in the early moments of breaking stories, so the penalty for getting it wrong isn’t as devastating as it might be.

Journalists should place a higher priority on getting it right than getting it first. Easier said than done in this environment.

Consumers should rely more on multiple sources of information. It’s the path to being well informed. And be wary of the first reports just as the big story hits.

The writer is former TV anchor/reporter who broke a number of stories using sources. Feel free to call on him for media counsel or training.

Anthony Weiner’s Possible Comeback

The NY congressman who made national headlines for sending lewd photos of himself to strangers is considering a run for New York City mayor.

I can just see the bumper stickers now.

No doubt testing the waters, Anthony Weiner and his wife gave in-depth interviews that were the heart of a lengthy NY Times Magazine article.

As I stated on the Chuck and Kelly Show this morning, Weiner has a tough hill to climb, very tough, but I wouldn’t say it’s impossible. New York voters have a high tolerance for misbehavior by their politicians. Weiner’s original offense, strange as it was, didn’t actually involve any sex and didn’t appear to break any laws or misuse taxpayer money. That puts him ahead of Spitzer, Rangel and the long list of crooked state legislators now in trouble. Weiner also has a $4.3 million war chest and another $1.5 awaiting him in matching funds.

Weiner’s polling confirms, as he puts it, “there’s a healthy number of people who will never get over it.” But he wants “to ask people to give him a second chance.” Second chances must be earned. Weiner has two principle challenges:

1- Convincing people he is truly contrite.
Contrition for ambition’s sake is not true contrition. His wife, Huma, must play a role here. She must convince voters she really believes her husband is sorry. Oprah, Barbara Walters, whatever. The public has to witness this exposition, from both of them, and judge for themselves.

2- Answering the Bizzarro factor. Is he fixed?
How can an ambitious congressman think sending lewd photos to strangers not cause him trouble? Is this man stable enough to run NY City? Weiner still hasn’t given a real answer to the question, “how could he do it?” He said, he “viewed it as so frivolous” and “it was just another way to feed this notion that I want to be liked and admired.” He’ll have to do better than that.

The Times article presents a theory this potential run, even if unsuccessful, might put the episode behind him to set up a future run. Perhaps. In the end, voters make choices based on what they think is best for them.

I don’t think Weiner would stand a chance in Kansas. But, then again, they don’t ban big sodas there.

The writer is a one-time elected official and small business owner who provides political consulting and crisis communication counsel. More here.