How did erroneous reports of an arrest or suspect in custody in the Boston Marathon bombings become a reported fact? The first report appears to have come from a CNN tweet just before 1 p.m. reporting an arrest had been made. The Associated Press tweeted around 1 p.m., citing law enforcement sources, that a suspect was in custody. A CNN blog shows the report first came to that network also via a law enforcement source:
An arrest has been made in connection with Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings, sources tell CNN’s John King and CNN contributor Fran Townsend. King’s source is with Boston law enforcement, he said; Townsend’s source is with federal law enforcement.
The story was quickly picked up by other news outlets. This was made more viral by the fact The Associated Press, which many newspapers and their corresponding websites use for coverage of stories we haven’t staffed, reported this as well.
Most outlets quickly backtracked once Boston Police refuted the claim and the FBI and Attorney General’s office wouldn’t verify. The entire misinformation cycle lasted about half an hour. Once again, however, media outlets are left looking like we don’t verify these things anymore or — worse — that we’re just deliberately misleading people.
The reality is journalists have always faced the issue of misinformation and subsequent clarification or correction. The difference in the past 10 years has been the speed at which that information circulates. Essentially, the general public is now along on the ride with us watching the play-by-play process of getting information and verifying it. And for most journalists, a law enforcement officer — even if not an official spokesperson — is a pretty reliable source. But as we saw today, that’s not always the case.
This case — like the misinformation that swirled around the Newtown, Conn. shootinggs — illustrates two things:
- The need for journalists to be extra vigilant when confirming info from sources on developing stories where emotion is high and the need for information is pressing.
- The need for the public to understand that telling “the story” these days is a process — one in which you get to see all of our edits.
Vudu, the online movie and video service, has just announced hard drives containing the personal information of customers have been stolen from the company’s Santa Clara, Calif. office. Although full credit card numbers have not been compromised, thieves appear to have gotten their hands on a good amount of other information including full names, dates of birth, email addresses, physical addresses, phone numbers, the last four digits of some credit card numbers and encrypted Vudu passwords.
Although the company claims the passwords would be difficult to hack, common sense suggests if you have a Vudu account you change that password now. The company has instituted an automatic password change for online accounts, however, if the password you had is the same as your password on other accounts, you should strongly consider changing those other account passwords now that the thieves know who you are.
The notice from the Walmart-owned video service comes nearly two and a half weeks after the reported break-in on March 24.
Here’s the announcement the company sent out:
We want to let you know that there was a break-in at the VUDU offices on March 24, 2013, and a number of items were stolen, including hard drives.
Our investigation thus far indicates that these hard drives contained customer information, including names, email addresses, postal addresses, phone numbers, account activity, dates of birth and the last four digits of some credit card numbers. It’s important to note that the drives did NOT contain full credit card numbers, as we do not store that information. Additionally, please note if you have never set a password on the VUDU site and have only logged in through another site, your password was not on the hard drives.
While the stolen hard drives included VUDU account passwords, those passwords were encrypted. We believe it would be difficult to break the password encryption, but we can’t rule out that possibility given the circumstances of this theft. So we think it’s best to be proactive and ask that you be proactive as well.
If you had a password set on the VUDU site, we have taken the precaution of expiring and resetting that password. To create a new password, go to www.vudu.com. Click the “Sign In” button at the top of the page. Enter your current username and current password when prompted, then follow the instructions to reset your password securely. Also, if you use your expired VUDU password on any other sites, we strongly recommend that you change it on those sites as well.
As always, remember that VUDU will never ask you for personal or account information in an e-mail. Please use caution if you receive any emails or phone calls from anyone asking for personal information or directing you to a web site where you are asked to provide personal information.
As an added precaution, we are arranging to have AllClear ID protect your identity for one year at no cost to you. We have FAQs on our web site (vudu.com/passwordreset) to answer questions on the incident and to more fully describe how to use the AllClear ID service. We have reported this incident to law enforcement and are cooperating fully with their investigation. We want you to know that we take this matter very seriously, and we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.
Chief Technology Officer, VUDU
I like to keep a running tab of the Facebook likes of some of the major (and a few minor) New England newspapers. Likes aren’t everything when it comes to a strong Facebook page, but it’s a number people can easily grasp. More interesting and more important is Facebook’s “talking about this” number. This is a look at the number of unique people who have created a story from your Facebook page in the last seven days. It can go up or down daily, so it’s a difficult one to track, but I included a few of them here as well.
These are the results as of April 4, 2013:
- Boston Globe — 38,299 (4,176 talking about this)
- Bangor Daily News — 20,404 (2,496 talking about this)
- Burlington Free Press — 14,113 (1,902 talking about this)
- Lewiston Sun-Journal — 13,503 (1,760 talking about this)
- Telegram & Gazette — 13,055 (2,547 talking about this)
- Hartford Courant – 12,902 (907 talking about this)
- Boston Herald — 11,486 (735 talking about this)
- Lowell Sun — 10,568 (1,046 talking about this)
- Cape Cod Times — 10,544 (1,207 talking about this)
- The Day — 8,620 (114 talking about this)
- Portland Press Herald — 8,119 (885 talking about this)
- Rutland Herald — 7,902 (481 talking about this)
- Daily Item – 7,774 (687 talking about this)
- Providence Journal — 7,659 (902 talking about this)
- MassLive — 7,143 (193 talking about this)
- Seacoast Online — 6,188 (760 talking about this)
- Patriot Ledger — 3,572 (203 talking about this)
- Sentinel & Enterprise — 5,513
- Salem News — 5,141
- Ellsworth American — 3,798
- Eagle-Tribune — 3,562
- Times Argus — 3,452
- Union Leader — 3,370
- The Hour — 3,158
- Worcester Magazine — 2,940
- MetroWest Daily News — 2,380
- Gloucester Daily Times — 2,391
- Metro Boston — 2,140
- Valley News — 2,139
- Concord Monitor — 1,649
- Haverhill Gazette — 1,614
- Daily Hampshire Gazette — 819
Did I miss your paper? Let me know. I skipped a ton of weeklies since in most cases they’re limited in their reach based simply on the smaller geographic region they cover.
It appears the folks at JetBlue are getting better at pronouncing our oft-mispronounced city. As a transplant from Upstate New York, I sympathize. Let’s face it, most of our cities and towns are not pronounced phonetically. Now, if only Fandango’s movie time app could stop forcing me to say “Leo-min-ster” to find out what’s playing at Entertainment Cinemas.