News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

So, what happened to Mrs. Shahzad and the kids?

It took only 53 hours for a coordinated investigation from the time a car bomb was discovered at Times Square Saturday night to result in the arrest of its maker and planter.  What has been unusual about this case is that investigators have kept the press informed of developments in the case almost minute-by-minute.  

The coverage has been filled with quotations from authorities who provided information on the condition that they remain anonymous because of the ongoing investigation.  The investigators have been unusually accommodating to the press.  Usually, they are very reticent because premature information on what they are doing and finding can impede, often ruin, their efforts. 

As information is revealed, the press has also shown the influence of blogs by writing stories that carp, criticize, and adopt an attitude of superior knowledge about the investigation.  And they have not gotten the information right.  Initially, the press said that Faisal Shahzad almost got away.  The aircraft he was on was leaving on the taxi ramps when it had to be called back, and then authorities arrested him, according to first reports. That turned out not to be true.  It finally came out that that the door to the aircraft had been shut, but it had not left the gate.  The airline had not downloaded the latest no-fly list, but federal authorities ran the passenger manifest and saw that Shahzad had boarded the aircraft.  The press has emphasized what it calls lapses, rather than how redundancy provisions worked in an amazing investigation.

While the press was carping about the alleged failures of the government agencies, it left another question unanswered.  It noted that Shahzad had a wife and two children, but made no mention at all if they were involved in the bomb plot or what the state of their relationship to Faisal was.  It turns out that Mrs. Shahzad is a Coloradan who graduated from the university in Boulder.  Apparently, the only assignment desk that thought that the status of the family might be worth a mention was a television station in Denver which had reporters do some investigating and came up with information on a Facebook page. Mrs. Shahzad is in Pakistan and their embassy officials have said they intend to protect her and the children from the negative publicity surrounding the  case.  That is fair, as long as she is not implicated in the bomb plot, as her father is said to be according to news reports.

In any case, the media is showing the habits of bloggers by publishing rumors and misunderstandings before checking the information and verifying it for accuracy.  It is kind of like butchers criticizing the work of brain surgeons.  The legacy media is struggling to compete with the new media, but they are doing so at the expense of their credibility.  Leave the stupidity, rumor-mongering, and petty carping to the bloggers.  We need journalists and accurate information, not displays of deranged egotism. 

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States