New York Post: Hey, Maybe These Dark-Skinned Guys Are The Bombers
As I’ve noted previously this week, the New York Post’s coverage of the attack in Boston has been particularly egregious from a journalistic point of view. On the very first day, they erroneously reported the numbers of dead and the supposed fact that authorities had a Saudi national “in custody” at a local hospital. Both of these reports ended up being untrue. Today, they used their frontpage the broadcast the the world photographs that they basically said may be photos of two men that the FBI is looking for:
On Monday, the New York Post doggedly stuck to its claim that 12 were killed in the Boston Marathon bombings. On Tuesday, CNN (among others) reported that a suspect had been arrested, before walking that all the way back. Today, the Post wrests back the “what the fuck are you doing?” crown by putting two “potential suspects” on the cover of the newspaper. They are most assuredly innocent.
The pair show up in multiple photos of the finish line. They carry large bags. They are dark-skinned. This was enough for internet sleuths to peg them as suspicious. (They show up here, in Gawker’s rundown of “suspects” identified by crowdsourcing on Reddit and 4chan.) And that was apparently enough for the Post to run with its front-page story today, claiming investigators are circulating photos of the two. (The photo on the paper’s cover is a cropped and zoomed-in version of the one taken by Ben Levine, which appeared on Deadspin on Tuesday.)
But maybe there was a reason for them to be at the marathon, wearing track jackets and carrying bags: they’re runners.
One of the men, who is actually a teenager, actually came forward today to clear his name:
The teenage boy authorities once investigated as possibly being connected to the Boston Marathon bombing told ABC News today he was shocked to see his face pop up on television and all over social media.
Salah Barhoun, 17, said he went to the police yesterday to clear his name after he found himself tagged in pictures online. He had just gone to watch the race, he said, but soon after the explosions, he was singled out by internet sleuths as looking suspicious. Federal authorities passed around images of Barhoun, attempting to learn more information about him, sources told ABC News.
Today The New York Post ran a story featuring a picture of Barhoun and another man circled in red, but said it was unclear if they were the same as two potential suspects spotted by law enforcement Wednesday.
When he saw the front page story, with the headline “Bag Men,” Barhoun said, “It’s the worst feeling that I can possibly feel… I’m only 17.”
In essence, this all started with an informal, and not authorized by law enforcement, effort by people on Reddit and 4Chan to examine photographs of the scene of the attacks to see if they could identify possible suspects on their own. For days, both sites were filled with image enhanced photos that clearly identified people and theories about what they might be up to. On many levels, it’s an irresponsible action because the danger of vigilante action in a situation like this is quite high, as are the odds that the “suspect” identified may be entirely innocent.
But, that’s Reddit and 4Chan. When those pictures go from a social media site to the front page of a New York City tabloid it becomes an entirely different story. It was not only irresponsible, but without a shred of journalistic integrity, for the Post to public those photos without having any idea of whether or not they were pointing the picture at a possible suspect or, as it turned out, an innocent 17 year old. I’d ask the Post if it had any shame, but I think I already know the answer to that question.