Would Social Media Have Made Life Worse For Richard Jewell?

Would Social Media Have Made Life Worse For Richard Jewell?

Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: Clint Eastwood’s new movie Richard Jewell recounts the incredible tale of the security guard. Jewell was later [erroneously] considered a suspect after being hailed by the media for saving many from injury or death by discovering a backpack containing three pipe bombs in Atlanta’s Centennial Park during the 1996 Summer Olympics and helping to evacuate the area before the bomb exploded. Despite never being charged, he was subjected to an intense “trial by media” before receiving an apology from Attorney General Janet Reno and ultimately being completely exonerated.

The movie prompted Henry Schuster, an investigative producer for CNN at the time of the bombing, to offer an overdue apology in the Washington Post for his and the press’s role in turning Jewell from a hero to a villain by serving as “the FBI’s megaphone….”

Schuster warns, “Think how much worse it would have been for Jewell in 2019.”

The article mostly shares the thought processes of that investigative producer. (He remembers that in 2005, “I sat at the computer and started my letter of apology, got frustrated and hit save. A year after that, Jewell died at 44, after months of failing health; my letter remained unfinished and unsent.”)

But the CNN producer also writes that in the 23 years since the incident, social media has “made the rush to judgment instantaneous — as quick as machine trading on Wall Street, but without any circuit-breakers.” Would that have changed the way things played out if the incident happened in 2019? It’s an interesting thought exercise — so share your own thoughts in the comments.

Would social media have made life worse for Richard Jewell?

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