This weekend provided an opportunity for much reflection on the part of major news outlets, both from television and print. (Whether they took advantage of that opportunity is another matter.) Two huge gotcha moments for the liberal press blew up in their faces in relatively short order. The most recent was the story of the students from Covington Catholic High School in Covington, Kentucky who attended the March for Life and wound up in a confrontation with a Native American activist near the Lincoln Memorial.
The story, originally premised on a selectively edited video clip, claimed that the boys had started a confrontation with the Native American marchers. Accusations of chants about building the wall abounded. As you’ve probably heard by now, that story fell apart quickly, but not until the MSM had demonized the school children to advance the standard narrative. (NBC News)
The young man at the center of what has been described as a hostile confrontation with an Omaha tribal elder last week denounced what he called “outright lies” on Sunday, saying he was actually trying to remain calm to defuse the tense situation.
“I am the student in the video who was confronted by the Native American protestor,” the young man, Nick Sandmann, a junior at Covington Catholic High School in Covington, Kentucky, said in a statement issued through a public relations firm…
Sandmann said Sunday that when his group arrived at the Lincoln Memorial, the site of the Indigenous Peoples March, on Friday, he heard “four African American protestors” who he said directed “derogatory insults at our school group.”
“They also taunted an African American student from my school by telling him that we would ‘harvest his organs,'” Sandmann said. “I have no idea what that insult means, but it was startling to hear.”
Despite the release of longer videos showing what actually happened, far too many in our political press were quick to jump on the original version of the story with many refusing to back down later. National Review has a collection of some of the more dubious headlines. It quickly became rather uncomfortable to watch.
But that wasn’t the only dark cloud on the media horizon. The week also saw the emergence of that toxic Buzzfeed story about the President supposedly telling Michael Cohen to lie under oath. The press jumped all over that one too, despite the fact that Buzzfeed (!) was the only outlet reporting it and none of the normal, major press outlets were able to confirm it. That didn’t stop them from charging forward (after a partial disclaimer about it not being confirmed) and engaging in all sorts of impeachment talk.
And then that story fell apart too after Bob Mueller took the unusual step of releasing a statement saying that Buzzfeed had gotten it wrong.
How did the media react to the news? Not well, as demonstrated in this tweet from Chuck Todd. (And for the record, I actually like Chuck and feel he does a lot of good work.)
Those trying to tar all media today aren’t interested in improving journalism but protecting themselves. There’s a lot more accountability in media these days than in our politics. We know we live in a glass house, we hope the folks we cover are as self aware.
— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) January 19, 2019
If you browse through some of the responses to that tweet you’ll see that it didn’t go over all that well. But it does exemplify what now seems to be a hard and fast rule at the New York Times, the Washington Post and most cable news outlets. The MSM has a tendency to jump on stories they like (i.e. reports that reflect badly on the GOP/White House) without spending quite so much time verifying them as they would if the story didn’t support the narrative.
I understand that the news business in the age of social media is a competitive rush to publish and beat everyone else to the scoop. But you have a choice of either waiting to be sure you got the story right or jumping down the rabbit hole with everyone else. In this environment, you might get away with either, as long as you followed the same pattern consistently. But when you err on the side of caution for stories which might make Democrats look bad and leap into the void immediately on tales that tarnish the GOP (or specifically Donald Trump), you compound the problem.
If you don’t want to keep being accused of trafficking in Fake News, there’s a fairly simple remedy available. Do better.