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
televisions perceived advantage over print journalismthe 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: Furrows 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.