Bombing coverage is less of a rush job

Posted Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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kennedy We were fooled in Newtown.

We were tougher to fool Monday, and more wary of the swirling rumors and incomplete reports on the explosions at the Boston Marathon.

There was a suspect. But there wasn't.

There were more bombs. But there weren't.

"I think people are aware now that it's easy to get something wrong or target the wrong suspect," Boston University journalism professor Caryl Rivers said by phone Tuesday.

"There's no rush now. People are more respectful if we just say 'police have no suspects yet.'"

Rivers was in her office Monday a mile away, working on her 15th book, when the phone rang.

It was her son in Houston, asking, "Are you OK?"

Rivers and I have talked before about the seriousness of terror. I met her in Boston 20 years ago along with her late husband, former Boston Globe columnist Alan Lupo.

"People were stunned and maybe naive," she said.

"We never thought anything would happen here. And why of all places the marathon?"

About two hours' drive from Sandy Hook Elementary, Bostonians are close enough to have a vivid memory of the Connecticut shootings Dec. 14 and the hurried, ham-handed reporting afterward.

So viewers were slower to draw conclusions, and reporters quick to backtrack.

Reports of other explosions were unfounded. A fire at the John F. Kennedy Library did not seem related. Police have no suspect.

"There were false statements, but they were denied quickly," Rivers said.

"Overall, the media did a pretty good job at dialing back rumors."

The home of brassy reporters and brawling columnists, Boston thrives on breaking news and treats journalists like celebrities.

I'll never forget visiting South Boston with Lupo. In Doyle's Cafe, a saloon lined with portraits of the presidential Kennedy family, he introduced me around the bar.

"You gotta meet this guy," Lupo would say.

"He's from Texas. His name is Kennedy. But listen how he taahks."

Rivers said Boston is proud of its rough-and-tumble ways.

President Barack Obama, a former Harvard Law student, described it as a "tough and resilient town," and Rivers liked that.

"We see ourselves as gritty, edgy, not just intellectuals," she said.

"We have little turf wars. But we all pull together."

We're all pulling for Boston.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

Twitter: @BudKennedy

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