CNN promotes itself as “the most trusted name in news.”
President Donald Trump has done his best to paint the network as anything but trusted, routinely labeling it as a purveyor of fake news.
The president has gone after other news outlets as well, from the major networks to national publications such as The New York Times and Washington Post.
Trump’s motives in attacking the media are political. But are the media as a whole being political as well, with an anti-Trump agenda?
Fox News’ commentators contend most media outlets are trying to undo the Trump presidency, looking for anything and everything to bring him down.
As a whole, the media can defend themselves as the watchdog of government that is not necessarily going to be popular with a president or others. The mission is to look at issues and report on them fairly and accurately using all ethical means.
Mistakes happen. And when they do, critics such as Trump will pounce.
This past week, the president got lots of ammunition vs. the media.
As detailed by Columbia Journalism Review:
• On Dec. 1, ABC News’s Brian Ross rushed to air with a bombshell report: Michael Flynn was prepared to testify that he had been instructed by then-candidate Donald Trump to initiate contact with Russian officials. Later that day, Ross corrected his reporting, stating that it was shortly after the election that the directive was issued. He was suspended by ABC for four months and will no longer cover stories involving the president.
• On Dec. 5, several financial news outlets, including Reuters and Bloomberg, walked back their reports that special counsel Robert Mueller had issued a subpoena for Trump’s personal bank records after The Wall Street Journal reported the subpoenas were for “people or entities affiliated” with the president.
• On Dec. 8, CNN, CBS, and MSNBC all reported on an email that seemed to prove the Trump campaign had advanced notice about emails hacked by Wikileaks. The story soon fell apart, however, because the email in question was sent 10 days after CNN and others reported, meaning it appeared in Trump’s inbox after the Wikileaks information was public.
No wonder CJR described it as “journalism’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.”
But can the mistakes be accurately labeled as intentional and political efforts designed to harm the president? We think not. We hope not.
Today’s media environment, more than ever, promotes a rush to publish. The social media boom has led to too many being too quick to go with information that has too little substantiation. The result is mistakes – errors that are hard to explain to those being fed a constant diet of media criticism.
The failure of media to distinguish between objective reporting and commentary/entertainment compounds the problem. The nightly cable shows are filled with political bias mixed with hosts telling you periodically they are reporting news. How are people supposed to know what is objective and what is not?
Mistakes in reporting are going to be made, but major media have generally done a credible job of reporting stories regarding the Trump administration. That Trump does not like the reporting makes him no different than many others having held the nation’s highest office.
The challenge for media is to look at how to change the public perception that their work is biased. A priority on getting it right before being first is a good place to start, followed by clearly distinguishing between news and commentary/entertainment.
A free press is vital to the freedoms Americans cherish – even when mistakes are made.