If there has been a major live-TV news event, the Daily Show’s satirical breakdown cannot be far behind. Jon Stewart last night answered the call of predictability, launching into an extended, scripted send-up of various cable hosts trying to cobble together live coverage in the midst of chaos. Much of the critique lands the appropriate, and obvious, shots — on the insistence of cable hosts to swear off speculation even as they dip their toes in it; on meaningless babble; on the AR-15 debacle; and so on. He summed up the entire performance as a “Wrongnado.”
Yet Stewart participated in a little “Wrongnado” of his own. Included in his reel of erring TV clips was the confusion about the number of shooters who had descended on the Navy Yard on Monday morning. Stewart cited MSNBC saying this: “If there were as many as three shooters, that would change this situation dramatically.” And then later this: “Right now, NBC has the report of just one shooter; there were earlier reports about multiple shooters…”
The mix up, at least in this one circumstance, wasn’t the creation of a reckless media scramble. The authorities themselves had concerns about additional shooters, to the point that D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier appeared before the microphones around noon on Monday and issued descriptions of two other “potential” shooters. It took police hours to dismiss its search for them, and a shelter-in-place notice wasn’t lifted until Monday night.
Blame the media for mistaken reports; don’t blame the media for passing along officialdom’s mistaken hunches.