Thursday, April 25, 2013

Yep, Journalism Is Dead

If there was any doubt that journalism is dead in America, the coverage of the Boston bombings put it to rest. Erroneous reports of arrests. Regurgitation of information passed on by anonymous officials. Irresponsible finger pointing of innocent people just for having knapsacks and being at the marathon. Failures to follow up on information. And worse of all, getting married to a narrative and not letting go even though the facts do not seem to square.

Where the media does excel is in compiling moving biographies of the victims. Covering memorial services and makeshift tributes. Finding the most tenuous connections between tragedies. Local angles to stories. Anything that doesn't involve journalism - especially investigative journalism - is top notch.

After the Iraq War, the press received a lot of criticism for not being skeptical and simply going along with the White House campaign to build support for the war. After watching the coverage last week, one has to wonder whether today's journalists even know how to spell skepticism. Much less practice it.

It has been a week since Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured and the media seems satisfied with repeating the same footage and conflicting information. Terrorism experts - including some who confidently said that the bombers had probably left the country just prior to the shootout on Laurel Street - are incessantly interviewed even though no new information has been made public. There have been no more press conferences and no reporter seem to want to know why public officials all of the sudden are camera shy.

Initially, it was reported that Tamerlan Tsarnaev "had no American friends". A narrative emerged of a man alienated from American society and resentful of the country that welcomed him.  It turns out that he was married to an American woman, Katherine Russell. Not only did he have an American wife, several American friends from his boxing days have been interviewed. It took days before finally Anderson Cooper made a comment that the claim that Tamerlan had no American friends didn't seem to "square" with the facts.

We were told that the brothers lived together. Not true. Tamerlan lived with his wife and daughter. Dzhokhar lived in a dorm at University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. According his sister in law, Dzhokhar was at college and she saw him "not at all" at the apartment where she lived with Tamerlan.

It was reported that the suspects were caught on surveillance camera robbing a 7-Eleven. Later the story was retracted and it was said that they did not rob the store. Just a coincidence that they happened to be at that store. They showed an image of Dzhokhar on surveillance camera. What did he do at the store? What time was he at the store? Were both brothers at the 7/11?

Originally sources said that both men car jacked a black Mercedes SUV. That both men admitted to the car jacking victim that they were the Boston bombers. When the FBI complaint against Dzhokhar was released it revealed that it was Tamerlan alone that car jacked the SUV. The car jacking victim and Tamerlan drove to a place to pick up Dzhokhar.

We still do not have an account of what Tamerlan did from the time of the bombing until his death. It has been reported that he was unemployed and took care of his three year old daughter while his wife worked long hours as a home health aide. According to the wife, Tamerlan was at home when she left for work the day that the FBI released the video of the suspects. What happened to the daughter once he left the house to go on his crime spree? Did he call his wife to tell her he was leaving the house? Did he leave the daughter with a neighbor? What happened to the child while her mother was at work?

Allegedly, Tamerlan was wearing an IED vest the night he died. At one point during the shootout, he decided to run towards the policeman while firing at them. A police officer said that he got within five or ten feet from where the police cars were parked and ran out of bullets. Why didn't he set off his IED vest? Was there an IED vest or is this one more example of misinformation?

Governor Deval Patrick - appearing on Meet the Press - described the "chilling " video of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev dropping his bag and moving away just in time before the second bomb went off. Governor Patrick had not seen the video himself. He was just relaying what law enforcement had told him.

Apparently, Governor Patrick was not told about he four minutes Dzhokhar stood with the knapsack containing a bomb at his feet as stated in the FBI complaint. He was not told that the suspect was looking at this cell phone. At one point it appears he was taking pictures. He briefly makes or receives a call. After the first explosion occurs, the complaint states that Dzhokhar seemed calm but does walk rapidly away leaving his knapsack. Ten seconds later the second bomb exploded.

A very different picture than what was portrayed by Governor Patrick. Instead of being chilling, it raises the obvious question of: why would anyone play with his cell phone for four minutes knowing that he has a bomb at his feet? Why not move away earlier? Why wait for the first bomb to go off and then move away? The events described in the complaint fit more with the scenario of someone who was unaware he had a bomb at his feet. Or someone stoned out of his mind. Why aren't reporters demanding that the video be released?
 
And where is the footage of Tamerlan dropping his knapsack? Leaving the area? Did they leave together? What about communications between the brothers prior and after the bombings? Any indication of a plot? Where did they practice making bombs? Where did they store them? How many weapons did they have the night of the gun fight? 

Why was the motive for the murder of MIT officer Sean Collier? What evidence ties the Boston bombers to his murder? Fingerprints? Ballistics? Surveillance video? It has been almost a week, why aren't the answers forthcoming?

In January of this year, Kaufman County, Texas prosecutor Mark Hasse  was shot and killed in broad daylight. A two months later, the Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife were shot and killed in their home. The initial allegations were that the Aryan Brotherhood was responsible for the killings. Some politicos even went so far as to point to Mexican drug cartels. Last week, a former Kaufman County Justice of the Peace and his wife were charged for the murders. No Aryan Brotherhood. No Mexican drug cartels. It may very well turn out that what unnamed sources are saying about the Tsarnaev brothers is 100% correct. In the meantime, a little investigative reporting would be much appreciated.