News coverage following mass shootings is always spotty. The deadly attack this weekend at a mosque in Quebec was no exception.

The Daily Beast, for example, fell victim to a parody Twitter account that claimed falsely that the fatal shooting, which claimed the lives of six people, was carried out by two notorious white supremacists. It took the news site nearly three hours to issue a correction.

Other newsrooms reported incorrectly that one of the suspected shooters was a man of Moroccan descent named “Mohamed Khadir.”

Police did indeed arrest two men immediately following the attack. However, the Canadian-Moroccan who police stopped after the shooting is actually named Mohamed Belkhadir, and police said later that he is not considered a suspect.

Canadian authorities have only one suspect in custody. He has been identified as Alexandre Bissonnette, a student at the Université Laval.

Before law enforcement officials had even revealed Bissonnette’s name, there was also the normal rush among certain members of media to politicize the attack.

“Too early to know if #Quebec mosque shooting was perpetrated by right-wing extremists. If it was, then this is result of Trump rhetoric,” said Conor McCormick, a student at Columbia’s prestigious Graduate School of Journalism.

The tendency by some in media to daydream publicly about shooters’ possible motives and affiliations makes everything worse. It confuses already murky situations, and it sets off multiple theories that have no actual basis in fact, which, of course, makes everything even more confusing.

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Aside from plain, old sloppy reporting, there has been another curious detail in how the Quebec shooting has been covered in the U.S.

Many American newsrooms have taken a selective approach to covering the attack, picking and choosing which information to provide to their readers.

The New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Post and others have omitted from their reports an eyewitness claim that the shooter allegedly shouted “Allahu akbar!” as he opened fire. And this makes some sense. A careful newsroom is right to hold off on publishing unverified information, especially in the wake of something as chaotic as a mass shooting.

But these same news organizations have also noted that a pig’s head was left in front of the same Quebec mosque last June. If the “Allahu akbar!” claim proves to be bogus, these newsrooms just saved themselves from professional embarrassment. They also spared innocent people from facing the consequences of media-inspired false narratives.

But should these same newsrooms have published the pig’s head detail — even though it has been verified — before knowing if it was relevant to the shooting?

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That detail, coming in a story about a mass shooting at the same mosque, runs the risk of prejudicing the reader without providing any real, fact-based evidence that the two events are connected.

The shooting might have been inspired by islamophobia, but until we know for sure, it seems odd for newsrooms to be in the business of hinting at things like that.

The pig’s head detail is certainly notable, and it may prove to be relevant to Sunday’s shooting. But so long as basic details remain fuzzy, providing background notes that may or may not be relevant is a very risky business, especially if said background notes end up not being relevant to the current story.

This article has been updated.

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