Boston Illustrates Messiness of Real-Time Reporting

As it happens, Discovery Channel will air a documentary Sunday titled “All the President’s Men Revisited,” focusing on an event still etched in our collective memory as representing the apex of investigative journalism.

The era and legwork depicted stand in stark contrast to the media coverage the last several days emanating from Boston, where TV viewers and social media have illustrated the messiness of real-time reporting, reflecting the influence of new technologies and channels that didn’t exist when the Watergate story broke more than 40 years ago.

As the Discovery doc notes, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were for a time essentially alone in covering the Watergate story, their scoops landing in the morning editions of the Washington Post. There was no CNN or MSNBC to pick up their stories and gab about them, no website to feed with constant updates, no Twitter to disseminate links to their stories.

Today, it’s unimaginable a horde of competitors and bloggers wouldn’t be poring over every word, with some issuing partisan defenses of the White House and others ratcheting up the pressure to tweet each new scoop before someone else has the opportunity to pounce on it.

The net effect has been to push all kinds of erroneous information into the atmosphere, from CNN’s initial reports of a “dark skinned male” and arrests being made to the New York Post featuring the wrong suspects on its pages.

The mix of limitless time to fill and limited information invariably unleash all kinds of silliness. One local radio host in L.A., for example, kept referencing the A&E series “The First 48,” and citing how important it was to come up with a break in the case during the first two days — her expertise seemingly having been gleaned entirely from watching reality TV. Others took to Twitter referencing scripted programs like “The Americans” and “Homeland,” which is, understandably, how many of us now process such events.

However wistful Woodward, Bernstein and other veteran ink-stained wretches sound in the “All the President’s Men” documentary, journalism certainly wasn’t error-free in the good ol’ days, and there’s much to be gained from the speed with which information is currently available. Watching the coverage late Thursday night and into Friday morning (when a more restrained CNN partly redeemed itself) was riveting — provided, that is, one didn’t fret too much about how little new we were learning, the endless repetition or the errors being splayed out, on TV and via social media, in the melee to be first delivering any new crumb of information.

Inasmuch as it’s a given the rules of the journalism game have forever changed, what’s needed is a sober discussion about guidelines — about what’s considered an acceptable level of inaccuracy amid fast-moving events, especially given the possibility of doing real damage to those wrongly implicated or misrepresented.

Of course, it will require a more sedate, sober moment to have that conversation. And these days — as the media careen from one crisis (some real, others manufactured) to the next — who really has the time for something like that?

Maybe we should schedule the meeting in a dark garage, since the explanation, albeit in a different context, would be much the same: Follow the money.

More TV

  • La Unidad

    Movistar Plus Pitches ‘La Unidad’ Digitally to International Buyers

    MADRID  —  Telefonica’s Movistar Plus was set to show off a pair of dramas at this year’s MipTV before the market was canceled. Now, Movistar has prepared online presentations on Monday where it will screen episodes of both series as well as conversations with producers and creatives from both series. Each show focus on terrorist [...]

  • La Linea Invisible

    Movistar Presents New Drama ‘La Linea Invisible’ to Virtual Marketplace

    MADRID – Originally planned to premiere alongside fellow Movistar Plus Original “La Unidad” at this year’s MipTV, “La Línea Invisible” will now instead screen for international buyers digitally in an online showcase hosted by the Spanish broadcaster on Monday. From “What the Future Holds” creator Mariano Barroso (“The Wolves of Washington”), the six-part series is [...]

  • John Callahan

    John Callahan, 'All My Children' Soap Opera Star, Dies at 66

    John Callahan, a soap opera star on “All My Children,” died on Saturday morning after suffering a stroke at his Palm Springs, Calif., home on Friday. He was 66. “Your bigger than life, gregarious personality will leave a hole in our hearts forever. We are devastated–my great friend, co-parent partner, and loving father to Kaya,” [...]

  • Cardi B Joe Exotic

    Cardi B Pledges to Start a GoFundMe for Joe Exotic From Netflix's 'Tiger King'

    Cardi B, like most people in the world, is hooked on Netflix’s “Tiger King.” Over the past couple of days, Cardi has been tweeting about the new docu-series, which follows the bizarre story of Joe Exotic, a private zoo owner with hundreds of exotic animals who ends up in jail for hiring a hitman to [...]

  • Victorious

    Ariana Grande and the 'Victorious' Cast Celebrate 10 Year Anniversary on Zoom

    Nickelodeon fans’ dreams came true when the cast of “Victorious” reunited to celebrate the show’s debut 10 years ago. Ariana Grande, Victoria Justice and their co-stars were supposed to get together in person to commemorate the anniversary, but due to the shelter-in-place rules around the country, the cast all hopped on a Zoom call. Grande [...]

  • Tiger King

    'Tiger King': Where Everyone in the Series Is Now

    (Warning: Spoilers ahead. Do not watch if you haven’t seen all seven episodes of Netflix’s “Tiger King.”) Like a stealthy tiger padding through the jungle, no one saw Netflix’s “Tiger King” coming until it was too late to un-see the questionable conditions the animals were kept in, and the questionable taste in tattoos of nearly [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content