Manchester & The U.S. Media’s Dangerous Double Standard

Damaging. Irresponsible. Hypocritical. Opportunistic.  There are plenty of words to describe the U.S. media’s rush to disclose sensitive information leaked by U.S. officials concerning Britain’s investigation into the Manchester terrorist attack; a list that includes the bomber’s name and forensic photographs of the crime scene.

The British security services are fuming, and rightly so. The minutes, hours and days immediately following a terrorist incident are crucial for apprehending members of the terrorist network before they flee the country and for thwarting attacks which may be imminent.  Leaking and publishing details of an investigation during this narrow window undermines those efforts and jeopardizes public safety.

It’s up to the Trump administration to plug the leaks in America’s intelligence community. But the U.S. media, including its newspaper of record, The New York Times, has, in my view, placed profits over public service. In its scramble to beat the competition, boost circulation and garner more clicks, the U.S. media has compromised the integrity and the mission of the Fourth Estate.

The New York Times defended its decision to publish photographs of bomb parts found at the scene of the Manchester attack, writing, “Our mission is to cover news and inform our readers. We have strict guidelines on how and in what ways we cover sensitive stories.’

The problem is, the NYT’s does not apply the same standard when the life of one of its journalists is on the line.

When a journalist working for The New York Times is kidnapped overseas, the paper does not race to publish the story. It suppresses it. And for good reason. Publishing details of the abduction could endanger the life of the journalist and undermine efforts to secure their release. Furthermore, the NYT’s asks other news organizations to keep quiet.  As Columbia Journalism Review noted, ‘such news blackouts have become a well-established tradition among American media.’

I’m fine with suppressing stories to protect the lives of journalists.  Now it’s time for the U.S. media to extend the same courtesy to the public it professes to serve.

Published by: bobshepherdauthor

Bestselling author Bob Shepherd is an ex-SAS soldier and security advisor. During his twenty years of service with 22 SAS Regiment, Bob participated in the Oman campaign, the Iranian Embassy siege in London, The Falklands War, the first Gulf War and Bosnia. He left the Regiment in 1994 as a Warrant Officer and went to work on the international security circuit as an advisor to media, diplomats and VIPS. Bob’s work in the private sector has taken him to some of the most volatile places on earth including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. He is a regular media commentator on security issues and has appeared on CNN International, BBC One, BBC World, BBC Radio and SKY News.

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2 thoughts on “Manchester & The U.S. Media’s Dangerous Double Standard”

  1. Excellent and well written article Bob, personally I think the media has too much power and influence, lies, spin and bias interfere with truthful information. The immediacy of the media and its access to information is frightening and your point about profit and beating the competition hits the nail on the head, they aren’t interested in offering the news because of its public interest they are merely trying to be first with the headline in order to sell more. They should be brought to book and heavily fined, the money could go to the victims and families….just a thought.

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