How Should a Journalist React to the Boston Marathon Bombings?

The after math of the Boston Marathon bombings, three reported dead, one an 8-year-old boy. (Aaron "tango" Tang/ Flickr)

The after math of the Boston Marathon bombings, three reported dead, one an 8-year-old boy. (Aaron “tango” Tang/ Flickr)

Video footage has been streaming from television screens all day. Screaming, blood and smoke comes from videos of those who were eyewitnesses. How much more can people take of this violence?

I was sitting on the couch with my aunt at home late Monday afternoon when the “BREAKING NEWS” alert came blaring onto CNN. Two explosions have occurred at the finish marker of the Boston Marathon, the news anchor said.

We couldn’t take our eyes off the screen. The vivid details the anchor was saying about what was happening made my imagination draw horrid scenes in my mind. It was not until eyewitnesses were placing footage online that I was able to see the details that the anchor was talking about.

The chaos that unraveled on the television screen mirrored the Twitter news feeds that was constantly popping up on my phone. Sixteen to twenty posts were being updated within seconds.

News outlets were competing to get the next big scoop on what was happening, even if it meant making up statistics. One source would report three casualties, while another reported 12.

While sitting on the train making my way from Schaumburg, Ill. to Chicago, my fingers were typing away confirming details and arguing details with friends abroad, unable to confirm their friends or families safety.

Graphic details scrolling onto my feed made my stomach uneasy. “There were bloody faces. Parents holding their children as they were being wheeled away…cuts, broken bones, lost limbs,” said WCVB.

As a journalist, I wanted to be part of this news that was making history.  I took to my social media outlets, Twitter and Facebook, to start analyzing the information coming in from news outlets.

As news made it’s way onto Twitter, re-tweets and comments were made. Adrenaline was pumping even though I was not there. Reading what others were seeing and the vivid details that entailed what these journalists were going through made me anxious. I wanted to be part of it.

I, however, could not. Social media would have to be my outlet to drain my anxiety and adrenaline through. All of this would halt when personal experiences leaked into the coverage that I was reading.

One of my old friend’s brother and sister-in-law was running in the marathon. I know it is not my brother, not my sister-in-law, but this idea of six degrees of separation haunted me.

Thankfully, they were not injured and completed the marathon before the bombs went off. I couldn’t get the images out of my head of those who were lying on the ground bleeding and screaming out for help. What if they were my family? What if?

With all the positives of using social media to communicate with family members from afar, even informing others that two more explosives were found later; social media was used negatively through the process of the events that unfolded.

Trending on Twitter later in the afternoon was the work “Muslim.” Accusations that Muslims were the terrorists that caused the bombings flooded my news feed.  “Kill those sand——-!” rushed onto the feeds from ignorant persons believing all Muslims are terrorists.

News outlets joined in on this coverage. New York Post declared that a Saudi Arabian national is the suspect and being guarded at a hospital. Other news sources site New York Post with their accusations of the suspect being a Saudi Arabian.

Where is the journalistic integrity to cover the news with multiple sources and not hold one reliable source as news worthy? This would come around and bite them in the ass since the Boston Police Department has declared that there are no suspect(s) in custody.

In many ways this tragic, horrific and scarring event allowed me to see a deeper side of being a journalist in today’s modern world. It is far better to be accurate than to be the first person to report the news, or even make up the news. It’s also difficult to take personal emotion out of the coverage that the public needs to see without bias.

Today was an emotional day that will stay with me forever. I not only lived through 9/11, I also lived through the bombings at Boston Marathon.


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