Fluid situation at California shooting confuses TV news

In the aftermath of mass shootings or other mass casualty events, it’s not uncommon for death toll counts to become the source of confusion as information is released and new developments unfold. The tragic shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill and Thousand Oaks, California, was no exception.

  • Initial reports cited 11 dead — most likely due to the fact that 11 bodies were discovered inside the restaurant turned night club (a fact that was clarified later in the day).
  • Sgt. Ron Helus was shot at the scene while trying to rescue people, but died later at the hospital, upping the count to 12.
  • Officials also confirmed that the apparent shooter was also found dead at the scene, which ups the death toll to 13.

At 7 a.m. eastern, when the networks were beginning their morning shows and cable news was offering rolling coverage, MSNBC and Fox News both were running graphics reporting 11 dead — which were updated live on air to reflect new information.

CNN, which was on air with “New Day” at the same time, reported the number “12” in its banner at the same time as MSNBC and Fox were reporting “11.”

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