Many reporters do great work answering the “So what?” question while also staying truthful. But many lean way too far into exaggerated gotcha territory. It’s one thing to build a story around the most interesting part of a speech. It’s entirely another to manufacture a controversy by willfully misconstruing the intent and context of the speaker.
There is probably no better example of this latter type of reporting than in the work of the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank. I had the fun of being on the receiving end of one of his hatchet pieces — what he wrote was so exaggerated and distorted that it bore no resemblance to the event I attended. MSNBC picked up his exaggerated and distorted version of events without a moment’s hesitation.
Because of my personal experience, I knew to be skeptical when Milbank made outlandish claims about another event he attended. He claimed a peaceful Muslim woman was horribly victimized by bigoted anti-terrorism extremists. Immediately the rest of the media complex linked to his story. The only problem was that he had done the equivalent of claiming his helicopter had been forced to land after being fired on. There was no way he could have confused the actual discussion at the event he attended with what he claimed went on that day. When the videotape of the event came out, the jig was up. You can read all about it in “Friends Don’t Let Friends Read Dana Milbank.”
And yet when Milbank defended his lies, he had a ton of media pals back him up.
Yes, Brian Williams told tall tales to make himself seem like a hero. That’s what the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank calls Tuesday. And I don’t see anyone talking about media integrity vis-a-vis his continued employment.