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For the week of August 18th, 1999 through August 24th, 1999

Media frenzy clouded Furrow chase


Minutes after white supremacist Buford O. Furrow Jr. shot up a Jewish community center near Los Angeles last week, a media stampede developed, particularly among highly competitive cable television networks such as CNN and Fox whose armies of reporters followed every second of the action. In a sense, this is television’s perceived advantage over print journalism—the ability to stick to the chase live. But such journalism is fraught with problems.

Even as a police dragnet was piecing together leads, rumors were pouring in as to who could have committed such a deranged act. One television reporter said there were two suspects, one of whom was Asian. Wrong. Meanwhile, as TV cameras dogged police SWAT teams around the Los Angeles area, questions were being raised over whether such frenzied coverage can help a fugitive track his pursuers.

To their credit, some TV news directors told their people to cool it until facts could be sorted from rumors. "Get it first, but first get it right," has been a time-honored tradition among thoughtful print and electronic journalists. Hopefully, it still is.

Footnote: Furrow’s connection to the Aryan Nations compound outside Hayden Lake, Idaho, may have once again sent the wrong signal to the rest of the country. Idahoans, too, despise what this nut camp stands for. Furrow and his fellow racists are as out of lockstep here as they are in the other 49 states.

 

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Copyright 1999 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.