Monday, August 5, 1996

Week of 08/05/1996

Media Bloodhounds
Is the media really helping to catch the culprit?
- by David Matthews 2

The bomb that exploded in Atlanta’s Olympic Centennial Park shocked a city as well as a nation to the renewed threat of terrorism. People cried out "WHY?" And then soon later they cried out "WHO?" Speculation as to who would be behind such a heinous and cowardly act was rampant. Everything from foreign terrorists groups to home-grown militias sects were blamed.

Suddenly a name is given - Richard Jewell, the guard who first spotted the bomb - as someone who
COULD be suspect. And at once the eyes of the world focused on his life.

This isn’t the first time the media has dogged federal authorities until they found a suspect. The media did the same thing with the Oklahoma City bombing, and again in the hunt for the Unabomber. But this time it’s somewhat different. This time the media is taking a more active investigation alongside, and even perhaps in spite of the federal investigators concerning Jewell. When the FBI wanted to search Jewell’s apartment the media was already there waiting for them. And despite the fact that the FBI now considers Jewell to be
LESS likely of a suspect than previously imagined, the press still hounds him.

There is another all-important difference that needs to be pointed out. Unlike the Oklahoma City bombing and unlike the Unabomber,
there is currently NOT ONE SHRED OF EVIDENCE that links Jewell to the Centennial Park bomb. Nor has Mister Jewell been charged with any crime yet. And yet the media and even ordinary people on the Internet are willing to consider him to be guilty until proven innocent.. or at least until someone else can be suspected.

This is indeed a dangerous gamble for the media. If by any chance the man is charged with the bombing, then it would be a gamble that paid off. But if the man isn’t charged, what then? Or worse yet, what happens if it turns out the man isn’t involved at all and the authorities find the person or persons who DID manufacture and plant the bomb?

What then?

Will the members of the media just say "
Oops!" and then move on to the next story? Will they apologize for dragging this man’s whole life through their uncaring lenses like cheese through a grater by publishing a retraction on the back page, or perhaps in an editorial?

One of the Atlanta TV stations that got caught up in this blood hunt for a bombing suspect prides itself on being "
first, fast, and accurate." They along with the other sources of the media were certainly first and fast. It stands to show, however, if they will be accurate as well.

I say this to the members of the Atlanta Journal, CNN, and the others who started the ball rolling: If you’re right, pat yourself on the back. If you’re not, congratulations.
You will have ruined a man’s life-- FOR NOTHING! I hope you can live with yourself because the public certainly won’t!

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