What was Clickworthy in 2013: The Boston Marathon Bombing

As runners crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon, bombs detonated, killing three and wounding 264. Days later, a shootout between the suspects and police led to a daylong manhunt that shut down an entire metropolis. The circumstances were horrific, but there was little doubt that the events of that week in Boston were the most interesting of 2013 to those of us who observe the news media in action.

I Tweeted extensively that week, and have compiled them in a Storify which you can view here. Focusing on the role of the media in the story, it captures the pace well, I think.


That week, we saw news organizations at their best and worst. NBC News (Pete Williams in particular) and the staff at the Boston Globe were roundly praised for being both timely and accurate. Local broadcast affiliates were tremendous, and their streaming platforms withstood heavy demand better than perhaps any event to date. Others, led by television’s go-to breaking news source, stumbled. Media critics on the coverage, and CNN’s awful performance. (David Zurawik, The Baltimore Sun) (David Carr, The New York Times)

What to say of the new players in breaking news? A lengthy but excellent read on how Reddit, Twitter, and other social media broke news, both real and imagined. (Jay Caspian Kang, New York Times Magazine)

And then there was the New York Post’s infamous (and probably libelous) post-bombing cover. (Andrew Beaujon, Poynter)

RELATED: Rolling Stone wins the most controversial magazine cover of the year, with this glamour shot of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. (From DylanMcLemore.com)

But are we being to hard on the press scrambling for information in the moment? What it’s like for reporters who are trying to cover a manhunt. (Brian Stelter, The New York Times)

We would later learn much more about the Tsarnaev brothers, thanks to a Boston Globe investigation published at the end of the year.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t share what was perhaps the finest contribution of the press to its public. One day after the bombing, a Boston Globe columnist wrote for an entire city. Beautiful and heartbreaking. (Kevin Cullen, The Boston Globe)

What Was Clickworthy in 2013
Feature: Surveillance, Snowden, and the Press

Rolling Stone cover of alleged Boston bomber sparks controversy – Framing villains and violence

Social media went nuts Wednesday, when Rolling Stone released its latest issue, the cover featuring alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Rolling Stone Tsarnaev

As the day wore on, major pharmacy chains CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid all announced they would not carry the issue. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino wrote a letter to the magazine’s publisher condemning the glorification of terrorists and wondering why first responders and survivors didn’t make the cover.

The cover refers to Tsarnaev as “The Bomber,” though he pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial. The photo is from Tsarnaev’s Twitter account, and – let’s face it – could have just as easily been the face of a young pop star gracing the music magazine.

Surely that must be the reason for our collective outrage – Tsarnaev doesn’t look like the bad guy here, though the cover text goes on to say he “fell into radical Islam and became a monster.” But even that phrasing, “fell into,” refers to a narrative that has existed since the day a major American city was completely shut down until Dzhokhar was found bleeding in a boat – he was the sheep that wandered into older brother Tamerlan’s sadistic plans. Dzhokhar was to be admired before his fall. He “became a monster”; we remember his humanity. (Though the article makes it pretty clear “The Bomber” is no hero to be celebrated.)

But Boston remembers humanity as well. The three killed at the marathon; the MIT police officer killed in the lead-up to the massive manhunt; the 280 injured between the two events. In the days following the bombing, newspapers and television newscasts were filled with graphic images of victims clutching soon-to-be-amputated limbs along blood-soaked sidewalks. Seeing one of the two men responsible for that carnage on the cover of a national publication is going to stir some raw emotions.

Except it didn’t in May, just three weeks after the bombing, when the New York Times ran the exact same photograph on their front page to promote a similar profile story.

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