It Has Been a Really Bad Week for Journalism

It has been a particularly embarrassing week for the press, and it’s only Saturday.

T. Becket Adams writes: For an industry that’s as disliked and distrusted as Congress, there’s a lot of work that media need to do to win back viewers’ trust.

There’s no room for error, especially now that there’s a subgenre of “news” that has zero basis in fact, and is created from thin air for the sole purpose of generating cash.

But learning to be more careful and even-handed is apparently difficult for much of media, and this week was especially rough for newsrooms that are already struggling to regain credibility.

In no particular order, here are some of the most embarrassing media moments from this week:

The New York Times’ unsubstantiated hit on Rick Perry:

The New York Times reported this week that former Texas Gov. Rick Perry agreed to be energy secretary without knowing the department oversees and maintains the country’s nuclear arsenal.

The story is written in such a way that Perry comes across as a bumbling bumpkin who’s in way over his head.

[Read the full story, at Washington Examiner]

The problem with the report – well, there are many problems – the main problem with the story is that it hinges entirely on a bland quote from a GOP energy lobbyist. That source, Michael McKenna, has disavowed the story, and he says the Times took him out of context.

Other problems with the article include that McKenna was booted from the Trump transition team in early November, while Perry was nominated in mid-December.

Nevertheless, the paper’s editors say they stand by the story, “which accurately reflected what multiple, high-level sources told our reporters.”

This is a particularly interesting defense, considering there is nothing in the article to suggest the authors had more than one source.

Bonus: USA Today falls for a parody Twitter account:

In my story this week on the Times’ unsubstantiated hit on Perry, I included a link to USA Today’s Dec. 14 report on the former governor accepting the position at the Department of Energy. I included the link for one purpose: To provide citation for Perry’s acceptance remarks, which were published originally in a joint statement with the president-elect.

What I didn’t notice until later was that the linked USA Today report also included a bogus reference to the North Koreans.

The Dec. 14 article read, “The Twitter feed of the nuclear-armed dictatorship said, ‘Donald Trump minister of nuclear weapons Richard Perry known as governor of Texas province, famed for its production of tacos and bumpkins.'”

Unfortunately for USA Today, the North Korean government did no such thing. Like many others in media, the widely circulated newspaper fell for a parody Twitter account created and maintained by members of the libertarian-leaning website, Popehat.com. I removed the USA Today hyperlink from my article debunking the Times, and I updated with a link to a source that doesn’t include an embarrassing mistake. Read the rest of this entry »