In an interview with WTOP radio in Washington D.C., CNN's John King discusses the criticism he and his network faced after inaccurately reporting last Wednesday that authorities had arrested a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings.
WTOP HOST: John, sometimes in breaking news, information comes out that turns out not to be quite right or information has to be walked back a little bit. CNN took a lot of heat last week for some information in the reporting of the arrest of a suspect that hadn't happened yet. What did you explain to the viewers when that happened?
KING: Well I was involved in that. It's not walking back, it's correcting it. You have to do that, and it's embarrassing. I've been at this for nearly 30 years gentlemen. I've covered a couple wars and a lot of breaking news and a lot of cops-and-robbers situations. I've got a pretty good track record, but when you do something like this it's embarrassing.
The bigger part, beyond being personally embarrassing, is it's tough for your viewers, who you want to trust you. So the one thing you do have to do is look in the camera and say, 'We were wrong,' and try to explain why we were wrong. In this case we had two reputable sources -- one of mine, one of a colleague's of mine -- who have been reliable in the past, who simply had bad information. We had two -- you never do that with one -- and we went with it, and we had to correct it.
As I said, it's a shot to you personally, it's a shot to your credibility. I think the best way to deal with it is to look people in the eye and say, 'We made a mistake, here's how we made the mistake,' and then move on. Then, hopefully, people will look at the bulk of your reporting in that situation and find it to be quite good. But it's my city, too, so it's sort of a double kick-in-the-head to me.
HOST: Honesty is the best policy, and mistakes do happen. But you're a perfectionist. I bet you didn't sleep for a couple of days.
KING: It was tough, it was tough. Look, I take this personally. I work for a place that's been great to me over the years, and when you make a mistake you're hurting your company as well. And again, I was home -- this eight-year-old boy [who was killed] grew up just don't the street from where I grew up, right on my old paper route when I was a kid. So there's a whole bunch of emotions that go through.
But one thing you have to do is sort out what you did, correct the information with the viewer, and hopefully learn a lesson -- did you do anything wrong, did you go a little to quickly, did you not go through an extra trap. Learn those lessons and then pick yourself up. My dad used to say, 'It's never the fall, it's how you get up.'