What distinguishes the corporate media business — yes, it’s a business controlled by publicly traded entertainment conglomerates — is that it isn’t held accountable to its customers. If surveys showed the public had a growing distrust of Amazon’s ability to deliver packages when the company promised, rest assured Jeff Bezos would heed the findings and take aggressive measures to remedy the situation. Amazon’s success is predicated on the company’s perceived trustworthiness and reliability.
The evidence is irrefutable the public’s trust of media is minimal and has been waning for years. A Gallup poll last September revealed that a majority of Americans have little or no trust in the media, and that even Democrats are becoming increasingly distrustful, despite the corporate media’s liberal bias. Without the public’s trust, the corporate media can’t justify the privileges and protections its reporters enjoy or be entrusted to serve as the public’s watchdog over government and other powerful interests.
Unfortunately, the journalist overlords of corporate media just don’t get it. Hard as it is to believe, the U.S. media fell to new lows these past two weeks, with USA Today, the New York Post, Fox News, the Washington Post, the New York Times, NBC News, and the University of North Carolina’s journalism school leading the charge. Given UNC’s involvement, indications are that corporate media is fast approaching the point of no return.
Let’s take a look at what happened:
Gannett’s flagship newspaper got caught allowing Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams to extensively revise her published March 31 op-ed and remove her implied support for a boycott of the state because of its voting law. Abrams had good reason to want any record of her previously supporting a boycott removed: Major League Baseball heeded her call and relocated its all-star game, which is estimated will cost Atlanta $100 million of lost business. No politician wants to be associated with that sort of economic carnage.
USA Today only came clean about its stealth editing after a Republican strategist noted on Twitter that Politifact cited the edited version as proof that Abrams never supported a boycott. That forced USA Today to attach an editor’s note alerting readers to the publication’s dishonesty, but two weeks had already passed since Abrams made her stealth edits.
This was a shamelessly disingenuous statement. USA Today shouldn’t be relying on a corporate PR person to spin its editorial practices. Moreover, the spokesperson didn’t address why Abrams was allowed to revise her op-ed after it was published in the first place. As is typical with the corporate media, the spokesperson didn’t admit any wrongdoing.
USA Today is a member of Facebook’s “Third-Party Fact-Checking Program,” and certified by the supposedly “non-partisan” International Fact-Checking Network. Facebook has deemed USA Today an independent arbiter of truth; the social media site uses the publication’s “truth” determinations to justify its censorship of contrarian opinions that challenge politically correct orthodoxy.
The role of the press is to speak truth to power, not abet power’s revision of truth. USA Today has demonstrated its unfitness as fact-checker and as a worthy watchdog against government wrongdoing. It’s what one should expect from a publication whose entire DNA is Gannett, a company long known for its low-quality local journalism and for destroying the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press.
Credit goes to Ryan Mills of the National Review for being among the first to call out USA Today being in cahoots with a politician.
New York Post
One of my favorite “Odd Couple” episodes was the one where Felix Unger represented himself in court and cautioned a witness about the dangers of making assumptions. When you assume, he warned, you make an ASS out of U and ME.
It would behoove the New York Post to watch the episode.
The Post on April 24 ran a cover story that migrant children from Central America arriving at a federally run shelter were receiving “welcome kits” that included a children’s book Vice President Harris published in 2019. The Post saw a photograph of Harris’ book on a cot of the Long Beach shelter and assumed it was included in all the welcome kits. Obviously, the Post reasoned, Harris was profiting from the migrant crisis.
Turns out the book was donated during a Long Beach book-and-toy-drive organized for migrant children.
The Washington Post dutifully put the New York Post to shame, and the tabloid promptly took down two false stories with the “Harris welcome kit” claims, then restored them with corrections. The journalist responsible for writing the Post original cover story resigned, saying she was “ordered” to write the false story. A Post insider told me the journalist worked at the publication for about 20 years and was quite well liked and respected by her colleagues. Another all-too-common example of reporters taking the fall for decisions of higher ups.
Unfortunately, Fox News had already globed on to its sister outlet’s fake story and played it up big time for a couple of days, and Senators Tom Cotton and RNC chair Ronna McDaniel amplified concerns that Harris was profiting from the migrant crisis. Fox, to its credit, promptly appended a correction to its story.
In a follow up story about having exposed the New York Post’s screw-up, WaPo fact checker Salvadore Rizzo felt compelled to add this perspective:
It’s a good example of how misinformation spreads on right-wing media and gets amplified by Republican leaders. The claim had begun to spread like wildfire, even forming the basis of a Fox News question at a White House briefing, before we debunked it.
Rizzo is dishonestly selective about his use of facts. The corporate media, particularly the Washington Post, is just as guilty of spreading misinformation as the right-wing media, if not more so. The Russian collusion hoax the Post aggressively peddled for four years immediately comes to mind, for which it and the New York Times were awarded a Pulitzer Prize. If by chance you still believe Trump’s Russian collusion was real, this story will help set you straight.
The Washington Post also is known to have been quick to make false assumptions. Here’s one of my all-time favorite editor’s notes, the one the Post posted about its reporting about an altercation involving a student from Covington Catholic High School and a Native American activist. The editor’s note pretty much debunked an entire story, and more care and diligence were spent crafting the note than preparing the original story.
Unlike the New York Post, which quickly acknowledged its falsehoods, the Washington Post waited at least six weeks and only took action after it was hit with a libel suit.
The WaPo, NYTimes, and NBC Fake News Trifecta
The Washington Post, New York Times, and NBC News all reported that Donald Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani received a so-called “defensive briefing” from the FBI that he was the target of a Russian misinformation campaign. All three outlets subsequently retracted their stories.
The NBC correction was eye-opening. The network admitted it had relied on one source who said that a defensive briefing was prepared for Giuliani but it had subsequently learned from a second source the briefing was never delivered “in part over concerns it might complicate the criminal investigation of Giuliani.”
Mmm. So, the first source just “assumed” the report was delivered.
Given the egg on their faces for their Russian collusions stories, one might expect a little more caution with regards to leaks about ongoing investigations, but the Post, the Times, and NBC News clearly have no shame.
The University of North Carolina Journalism School
The University of North Carolina Hussman School of Journalism and Media announced last week that it offered a professorship to Nikole Hannah-Jones, author of a much-maligned essay for the New York Times’ “1619 Project,” which originally argued that 1619 was America’s true founding because that’s when the first slaves were brought to America.
After leading historians derided the commentary as being inaccurate and flawed, the Times quietly removed the 1619 “true founding” claim and made other revisions. Hannah-Jones subsequently denied ever claiming that 1619 was America’s true founding, despite a since deleted tweet making clear she did. Hannah-Jones was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her commentary, but more than 20 scholars and public writers have called on her to return it.
UNC’s gushing praise for Hannah-Jones in its release reads like an obituary, likely to overcompensate for the criticisms of Hannah-Jones’ work. UNC declared that Hannah-Jones “encourages students to express their views and face rigorous challenges to them.” Those “rigorous challenges” might include expulsion. Hannah-Jones played an instrumental role forcing out veteran New York Times science reporter Donald McNeil because he once used the N-word in response to a question about the appropriate use of the N-word.
Journalists like Hannah-Jones who espouse that America is a racist country are in ample supply, but there is a scarcity of talented science reporters. UNC apparently sees more value bringing in a stealth editing pro who can teach students how to deftly deny facts that are undeniably true.
UNC journalism grads will be well prepared to work at the New York Times and USA Today.