Lessons to be learned by the media

January 21, 2019

I’d like to give a shout-out to the small staff who work with me to find and research stories.  Thanks to their professionalism, over the years I’ve been doing newsletters, radio, TV and podcasts, I’ve made it a point to correct as soon as possible anything we get wrong; but we very rarely have to do that. Meanwhile, the so-called “big media” outlets that have forgotten how to vet stories have just suffered two major face-plants in 48 hours.

First, there was all the “impeachment” hysteria over an anti-Trump article on the bottom-feeding website Buzzfeed that special counsel Robert Mueller felt forced to publicly debunk. (I mentioned that it existed but warned readers not to give it credibility.)    

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/inside-the-mueller-teams-decision-to-dispute-buzzfeeds-explosive-story-on-trump-and-cohen/2019/01/19/d89dba5b-fa0f-445b-9fd3-72f0e911e28d_story.html

With their impeachment hopes dashed and their blatant bias exposed, you’d think the media would be contrite over their utter lack of professionalism. But rather than apologizing to Trump or their readers/viewers, they just felt sorry for themselves.  CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin called it “a bad day for the media” and said, “The larger message that a lot of people are going to take from this story is that the news media are a bunch of leftist liars who are dying to get the President and they’re willing to lie to do it. And I don’t think that’s true.”  (He offered no evidence to back up that last assertion.)


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Mediaite.com had to admit that Fox News, which liberals often mock as “Faux News,” was among the few outlets professional enough to be skeptical of the Buzzfeed yarn, which was based on unnamed sources and had a co-author with a history of outrageous fabrications.

https://www.mediaite.com/tv/fox-news-restraint-on-buzzfeed-paid-off-and-should-be-a-lesson-to-other-outlets/

But instead of learning from their public humiliation, the very next day, liberal media outlets started salivating like Pavlov’s dog again, when they got another one of those “perfect narrative” stories: a video allegedly showing that a group of white Catholic school teenage boys – in MAGA hats! – at the March For Life!! – had accosted and hurled racist insults at a Native American activist!!!

When you’ve got something that perfect, who needs to find out if there’s another side to it, or if the side you’re reporting is even true?  And so we were treated to hours of furious condemnations of those horrible racist teens, with some of the usual Internet hotheads releasing their personal information and threatening them and their families.  Some even started a move to contact colleges and bully them into not accepting applicants from their school.

But wait – hold the phone – or maybe, hold up a lot of cell phones.  Because it turns out there were a lot of phones recording that incident.  And when you saw the entire thing, it didn’t prove the liberal narrative at all.  Quite the opposite, in fact…

https://www.westernjournal.com/ct/watch-full-video-maga-kids-indian-drummer-game-changer/

And yes, there were some vile racist things said.  But they were shouted at the Catholic teenagers by some strange people who weren’t part of either group.   

https://reason.com/blog/2019/01/20/covington-catholic-nathan-phillips-video

As one critic pointed out, maybe the reason liberals always think James O’Keefe’s undercover videos are selectively edited is because that’s what they do. 

To their credit, some of the people who jumped to conclusions (including some Republicans) admitted they were wrong and apologized to the boys (after trying to destroy their lives without bothering to fact-check first.)  But the Washington Post just couldn’t let it go without reminding us that back in history, the Catholic Church had done bad things to Native Americans…

https://twitter.com/AsheSchow/status/1087155499940958208

…which I guess justifies a mob of bullies, on the scene and in the media and cyberspace, attacking a group of innocent kids?  Oh, I forgot: they were white, pro-life, Catholic males in MAGA caps, so they deserved to be destroyed even if they didn’t do anything wrong.

The treatment of those young men was absolutely shameful, but so was the treatment of those media outlets’ audiences, in both of these cases.  We can hope that this weekend of back-to-back humiliating self-immolations by the media teaches them a lesson, but they may be too far gone for that. I suspect that if a juicy enough fake story appeared right now that cast a bad light on Trump or on Catholics (they’re in the crosshairs because of the belief that Trump will likely nominate Catholic Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg), they would all go tearing off after it without a second thought, like greyhounds chasing a mechanical rabbit.  

But if any of them really want to avoid looking like rabidly partisan fools again, I asked my staffers to give them some advice.  Here are their suggestions:

1.  Take the time to double-check every fact and quote. 

2.  Use reliable sources, and if it’s a partisan issue, get the story from both sides. 

3.  If a story sounds too good – or bad – to be true, it’s probably not.  And if it so perfectly illustrates a particular partisan narrative that it sounds as if it could have been made up by someone’s propaganda office, it probably was.   

 

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Comments 1-5 of 5

  • Lisa Murphy

    01/22/2019 01:55 PM

    If they’re gonna go all the way back to Catholics mistreating Indians long ago, then we also get to bring up democrats wanting to keep slavery and inventing the KKK

  • Paula stephenson

    01/22/2019 09:27 AM

    Thank you,Mike. White, Christian, males, Pro Trump,pro life are all identifiers to use to hate conservatives. Add the Build the wall identifier to that list.

  • Paula stephenson

    01/22/2019 09:27 AM

    Thank you,Mike. White, Christian, males, Pro Trump,pro life are all identifiers to use to hate conservatives. Add the Build the wall identifier to that list.

  • Connie Parker

    01/22/2019 07:29 AM

    On Monday night, I watched as CBS evening news, in talking about President Trump's proposal to reopen the government, listed only TWO points of the proposal, a three year extension to DACA recipients and 5.7 billion for the border wall. None of the other points in the proposal were mentioned. The media is afraid to tell the truth and so eager to make the President look bad that they edited the information presented.
    Also, why no condemnation of the "black Isrealites" vile behavior and horrible name calling toward a group of teenage boys, no matter what hats they wore or what their skin color is. There should have been an outcry against those thugs.

  • Bob McCartney

    01/21/2019 03:11 PM

    Governor; congratulations on your show. You make us in Arkansas proud for for your common sense approach to the news. I remember how you were treating while Governor, and you have a daughter who can take attacks as you did. Your band and the do-wop they sing is great, and you can tell by the audience reaction, they love it. Keep up the good work.