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 has spent nearly forty years operating in conflict areas around the world. A twenty year veteran of Britain’s elite 22 SAS Regiment with nearly two decades of private security work to his credit, Bob has successfully negotiated some of the most dangerous places on earth as a special forces soldier and a private citizen. Bob comments regularly on security issues and has appeared on CNN International, BBC, SKY News, and BBC Radio. He has also authored numerous articles and books including the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller The Circuit. In addition to writing and lecturing, Bob continues to advise individuals operating in hostile environments. For more of his insights on security and geopolitics visit

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

  1. Well said Bob. ” Someone once said whats the difference between a genius and an idiot ” One knows his limitations the other doesn’t ….
    p.s lost your email address

    Tony S

  2. What an excellent response Bob. I was apalled when watching an interview on the BBC this morning, when an ex CIA member described the leak as “no big deal”. Really! What a contemptuous attitude to have towards the threat to lives .

  3. Hi Bob, your absolutely right with the media in this country.The leaks that are going on are interfering with the security of this country and now with our #1 ally .We can’t let this keep on happening.

    Best regards
    Paul Dippolito

  4. Well said Bob. Frankly I never trust the Yanks but know mutual sharing of Info is a necessity. As we all know – the special relationship is very one sided.
    My own view is that the intelligence services in the US have such a poor relationship with their president that the leak was to damage him more than for financial gain. Whistleblowers get 35 years – the culprits oil we ever get the correct people – should get no less. Chances are ? Pretty much zero.

  5. 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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