What Should Americans Do about the Media's Lost Credibility?
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By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
Truth is the hallmark of any professional journalist. However, we recently witnessed the media lose credibility with its coverage of Russian collusion during the 2016 presidential election.
On June 29, the New York Times and the Associated Press corrected earlier stories on Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.
Those stories were based on an Office of the Director of National Intelligence report released in January. The ONI report claimed that all 17 U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies agreed with the findings that Russia meddled in the election.
Actually, only three intelligence agencies – the FBI, CIA and the National Security Agency – were in agreement with the ONI, according to the May 8 Congressional testimony of former DNI Director James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan.
Both Brennan and Clapper mentioned in their testimony that there was no clear consensus among the 17 intelligence agencies. Clapper also “acknowledged that the analysts who produced the Jan. 6 assessment on alleged Russian hacking were ‘hand-picked’ from the CIA, FBI and NSA.” Were they selected for their expertise? Or were they selected for some other reason?
The Associated Press Issues a Correction
The only comment from the Associated Press was that “stories published April 6, June 2, June 26 and June 29, reported that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies have agreed that Russia tried to influence the 2016 election to benefit Donald Trump. That assessment was based on information collected by three agencies – the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency – and published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which represents all U.S. intelligence agencies. Not all 17 intelligence agencies were involved in reaching the assessment.”
Why did the media move forward with this narrative when it was readily known back in January that it was false?
Three Highly Regarded CNN Reporters Resign
This isn’t the only example of the media failing in their journalistic ethics. Last month, three highly regarded and prominent CNN reporters resigned on June 26 after the cable news “decided it could not fully stand by its reporting.”
Their story alleged that Anthony Scaramucci, a hedge-fund manager and close friend of President Trump, was linked to a Russian investment fund managed by a bank controlled by the Kremlin.
“In the aftermath of the retraction of a story published on CNN.com, CNN has accepted the resignations of the employees involved in the story’s publication,” a CNN spokesman said. Links to the story were disabled and CNN apologized to Scaramucci.
Why would prominent journalists write a story based on a single anonymous source? The perplexing part is that one of the reporters, Eric Lichtblau, won a prestigious Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2006.
Where Have Ethical Standards of Journalism Gone?
The unfortunate aspect these two stories are indicative of what transpired throughout the 2016 presidential election, when media outlets were exposed for colluding with the Clinton campaign at the expense of upholding journalistic ethics of reporting.
Where are the ethical standards of journalism? It appears that the media has forgotten the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics.
To keep the trust of the American people, reporters and the media must follow their own ethical standards. They should take responsibility for the accuracy of their work, verify their information before releasing it and use primary sources whenever possible.
When considering the truthfulness of their sources, the media must consider the motives of their sources before promising anonymity. Reporters should reserve anonymity for sources who have information that cannot be obtained elsewhere and who could be in danger or face some sort of punishment for revealing it. The media should also explain why anonymity was granted to a source.
Truth in reporting should never be sacrificed for partisan reporting.
Many journalists may not like President Trump or are even appalled that he is president. But President Trump was the winner. It is not the job of journalists to invent or fabricate reporting or show bias.
Veteran Reporter Bob Woodward Calls for ‘Fair-mindedness when Reporting’
Even the famous investigative journalist Bob Woodward last month openly criticized the media’s overt bias toward Trump. Woodward said that it’s crucial that the press retain the trust of the public and execute a deep “fair-mindedness” when reporting.
“[It] really betrays the anti-Trump media bias,” Woodward said regarding media stories about Russian meddling in the election. “I think a kind of brief, deeply fair-mindedness is essential, but as essential or maybe more essential is a game plan for reporting this and going to Moscow and finding the [culprit].”
The media are the watchdogs against government excess. But who watches the media when that trust is broken and our nation is the victim?