Free Press Apologizes for 'Building a Bomb' Diagram After Online Outcry

The Detroit Free Press pulled an online graphic headlined "Building a Bomb" from its Facebook page Wednesday morning after angry posts from readers. It also appears in the print edition, which on Wednesday is sold via coin boxes and stores.

 "We regret this error," says  Free Press editor and publisher Paul Anger. " The graphic was far too detailed and we’ve unpublished it everywhere we can."

Assistant managing editor Stefanie Murray apologized individually to each social media commenter who objected. "We took it down because it should not have been published," one note says. "It was an error in judgment that we regret, and we've removed it everywhere we can."

The diagram illustrates what explosives experts believe was inside the two pressure cooker devices that went off Monday afternoon near the Boston Marathon finish line, and showed how they may have been assembled.

The graphic, shown in a partial screengrab sent to journalism blogger Jim Romenesko, describes what exposives could be used, illustrates "blasting cap attached to top of cooker" and adds: "Can be detonated with digital watch, cell phone, garage door opener."

Similar diagrams appear elsewhere online, as some Free Press defenders note in their comments. Still, the paper's social media post provoked an outcry on Facebook and Twitter that led to its removal. The apology followed about two hours later.  

"I know that info is all over the Web, but this appears to be insensitive," former Free Press reporter Ben Schmitt posts on Facebook.

"Thanks for taking down your 'how-to-build-a-bomb' instructions," a reader named Dana Stone comments on the paper's Facebaook page. "it made a lot of people angry."

The paper has a USA Today article Wednesday with general details of what a federal law enforcers says about the bombs. The graphic appears with in print and e-edition subscriber versions, and was posted at 10:31 p.m. Tuesday on the paper's website. The online archive still shows a thumbnail version and the headline "Graphic: A pressure cooker bomb," but that link now calls up a blank page.

The Free Press didn't create the graphic, which is credited to the Washington Bureau of McClatchy Newspapers/Chicago Tribune.    

Here's a sampling of other reactions:

  • "There's a thin line between explaining how something works and showing someone else how to do it. The same information in text form wouldn't bother anyone." -- Nancy Nall Derringer, Grosse Pointe Woods journalist
  • "How goddam stupid can a newspaper get?" -- Henry Kisor
  • "Now waiting for follow-up story: 'Romenesko pulls bomb instructions after realizing he just spread them.' " -- Ed Dravecky
  • "Awesome. I'm now waiting for the Detroit Free Press to take on the dangers meth by posting a recipe to Pinterest." -- Matthew Hensley
  • "Don't really get the uproar. Do we honestly think that the extra step needed to Google 'pressure cooker bomb' would deter a budding terrorist? I was curious about how it worked, myself, when I heard about it." -- Suzanne Wood Koziatek
  • "Wow. One has to wonder what was going through the editor's head when this was being vetted. Apparently they'd never heard the words "copycat crime." -- Dave Lundy, Chicago
  • "Glad you took it down but it should have never been posted to begin with." -- Jennifer Gamet
  • "There is absolutely no reason for you to post the info graphic on a pressure cooker bomb. Your graphic basically explains how to build one. Extremely irresponsible. . . . It could possibly put people's lives in more danger." -- Kat Dooley

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