Every year there
are multitudes of terrorist attacks within the United States. Many of these
attacks are thwarted and the perpetrators are apprehended. However,
occasionally the wrong individual is accused. The bombing at the 1996 Olympics
is one such case where justice failed, and the wrong man was left to take the
blame. This case raises the important question as to how accountable media
outlets should be held for releasing potentially damaging information. To
better understand the repercussions being falsely accused can have on an individual
we will analyze Richard Jewell who had his life become a living nightmare after
the Olympic bombing.

Richard Jewell was
working as a temporary security guard at the Olympic games on July 27, 1996,
when he came across an abandoned bag (Sack, 2007, para. 5). Richard then moved
to alert local law enforcement and attempt to try and start moving civilians
away from the scene (Sack, 2007, Para. 5). These actions potentially saved
dozens of lives and mitigated how many were wounded. While Richard was heralded
as a hero shortly after the bombing for quick thinking, the celebration was
ephemeral. Within a matter of days, Richard was flung into whirlwind
suspiciousness caused by his finding of the bomb. In a YouTube video posted by
the New York Times, it was pointed out that the FBI originally suspected
Richard because of “instances in recent past where police officers invented
situations so that they could be a hero” (2013). As soon as the media caught
wind that the FBI was looking into the man that was the “hero” they twisted it
in whatever way they could to elicit views. While Richard was never charged or
arrested the media began posting articles painting him as the sole suspect. In
fact, “One television outlet
featured an interview with a psychologist who said Mr. Jewell resembled a lone
bomber” (Bernstein, 2007, para. 9).  These reports by almost every major news outlet
stigmatized Richard even after the investigation had concluded and he was
declared innocent. It is important that media outlets be held accountable for
their reporting and the repercussions it may have. These are supposed to be
reporters we trust to get details correct and do some digging, instead they
often go for whatever gets the most views and throw caution to the wind. With
this said, if the media is responsible for stigmatizing an individual so bad
that they can not work they should be held responsible to pay for that
individual and make public reports to amend their wrongs. Even after the
investigation had concluded Richard had a notoriety that followed him. It was
not until several years later that he felt a slight reprieve when the actual
bomber had been captured.

It was not until
2003 that the real bomber Eric Rudolph was captured. Furthermore, Rudolph was
responsible for several more bombings after the initial 1996 attack. According
to the FBI Rudolph was adept at surviving in rugged terrains such as mountains
and wilderness and this is how he eluded them for so long (Rudolph, 2016). Rudolph
turned to terrorism seemingly out of anger at the government and hate for
abortions. This is seen in a report by NBC where it is stated, “he picked the
Summer Games to embarrass the U.S. government in front of the world ‘for its
abominable sanctioning of abortion on demand.'” (“series of bombings”,
2005, para. 1). These comments show his that his hatred for policies on
abortion caused for him to try and take extreme measures. Luckily, Rudolph is
serving several life sentences and bound to solitary confinement, a suitable
punishment for one who loved the outdoors so much.

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In conclusion, it
is easy to see that the media can relentlessly tarnish any individuals name
with no real facts to back up their stories. While many citizens rely on the
news it is obvious that they may not necessarily have the publics best interest
always in mind. It is important that our society holds these giant businesses
accountable when they act questionably or bring harm unto others. Only through
fact checking and ethical reporting can we prevent another individual from becoming
the next Richard Jewell.


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