The confusion surrounding the Boston marathon attacks was exacerbated by a welter of conflicting media reports about everything from the number of injuries and fatalities to the existence of a third explosion at the JFK Library.
The New York Post, Fox News and NBC News all reported that someone was being held in connection with the explosions. The Post went the furthest, saying that the man was a Saudi national and was 20 years old. These reports were denied by the Boston police commissioner, who told both reporters and a full press conference that there was nobody in custody.
The Post, citing law enforcement sources, also said that 12 people had been killed in the attacks. No other outlet reported that there were more than three fatalities.
Columbia Journalism Review writer Ryan Chittum had a warning for the Post:
NY Post either has some amazing source or it's going to have a lot to answer for
— Ryan Chittum (@ryanchittum) April 15, 2013
The number of injuries also varied from network to network. Just after 6 PM, CNN and NBC News, along with the Boston Globe, said that 100 people were injured. ABC said there were 86. CBS said there were 50.
A fire at the John F. Kennedy Library was also initially thought to be connected to the two explosions; the library later said a mechanical error was at fault.