When I was 14-years-old, i received the first lasting piece of advice regarding the press from my journalism teacher. “Never be wrong,” he said, referring to my piece about a suicide that happened at the train station down the block from my high school. I had stayed late that day to write up information about her possible reasons for laying down on the train tracks, reactions from the crew, and how the proximity of the event to the school might affect students.
I don’t remember what my original headline was, but the one they ran with was, “Woman’s death delays trains.” The article had been sliced up. This was a good thing, though I didn’t think so at the time. As it turned out, some of what I would have posted wasn’t entirely accurate. Back then, you couldn’t go in and edit the piece. Once it was printed on a newspaper and distributed, it was permanent. Corrections would go on page six in future editions.
My teacher’s advice to me was a variation of a quote I hear often regarding everything from business to technology, thought it’s particularly important in the world of journalism:
“It’s better to be right than first.”
Today’s media is under extreme pressure to be first. The internet, 24-hour news channels, mobile devices, and social media have accelerated news demand exponentially when compared to just two or three decades ago. The difference between being the first to publish a story and being one among the multitudes of follow up stories referencing it is huge; the source story that breaks a big piece of news can get millions of additional visits to a site if the story is big enough.
This has created a portion of the “fake news” epidemic that we’re experiencing. I’m somewhat of an anti-mainstream-media hipster; I was writing about biased media well before President Trump made attacking them cool. I wasn’t alone, obviously, as media watchdog publications have been around for years. Despite our presence, it was only after Trump brought a focus to it that news outlets really started feeling the heat.
That heat burns in both directions, though. On one hand, it makes mainstream media outlets more likely to double- and triple-check stories before running with them. On the other hand, it has turned them against this President more than they’ve been against any of his predecessors. Even George W. Bush had a great relationship with the press compared to President Trump. This resentment and bitterness mainstream media has towards the President often makes them careless. They WANT bad stories to be true and are willing to suspend their own journalistic standards in order to get the dirt out there.
This week has been a perfect example of how their bias and carelessness got the better of them. Axios highlighted three major errors that went to print before being quickly debunked:
- Flynn’s testimony: Last Friday, ABC News reported that former national security advisor Michael Flynn was prepared to testify that President Trump, while still a candidate, directed him to contact Russian officials. But later in the day, the network issued a “clarification” that the direction came when Trump was president-elect. That changed the impact of the story entirely as it’s a common occurrence for presidential transition teams to reach out to foreign governments.
- Deutsche Bank subpoena: Reuters and Bloomberg both reported on Tuesday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for information on accounts relating to President Trump and his family members — seemingly confirming that Mueller had expanded his probe to investigate the president’s financial dealings. The WSJ defused that bombshell in a follow-up report stating that the subpoenas actually dealt with “people or entities close to Mr. Trump.”
- WikiLeaks emails: CNN reported this morning that senior Trump campaign officials, including Trump himself, received an email from an unknown sender on September 4, 2016 that linked them to what could have been unreleased WikiLeaks documents. WaPo issued their own report later in the afternoon that the email was actually sent on September 14 — and linked to a trove of documents that WikiLeaks had publicly released a day earlier.
All of these were inexcusable mistakes. The first was unfortunate because they ran with a story that would have been proven inaccurate if they’d only waited an hour or so. They reported a rumor and didn’t correct it even well after the rumor turned out to be false. The second was just plain silly. They didn’t even attempt to corroborate their sources. The third, which happened today, was pure carelessness. They were so excited about having a bombshell report that nobody took the time to actually check the date on the email that was the subject of their premise.
These aren’t rookies making mistakes. This is a rabid leftist mainstream media that is crafting the news to fit their agenda. That’s not new. What’s new is their hatred. They didn’t like Republicans before, but they weren’t blinded by hatred. They were more careful with their propaganda. Today, they hate the President of the United States. This is what’s making them careless. This is why the “fake news” proclamations of President Trump are turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
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