Or, How the Media Continues To Say “No Thank You” to the First Amendment
Yesterday, CNN “broke” a story about the possible blackmailing of our president by a foreign government. It now seems more and more likely that the story just simply wasn’t true.
So, how did it become such an explosive story so quickly?
Let’s take a trip down memory lane for a moment to help us understand how this might have happened.
In October, 2009, CNN cut into their regular programming to report some breaking news. It seemed that a large helium balloon had broken free and was floating above the Colorado countryside. While this is normally a completely unremarkable event witnessed every day in parking lots of grocery stores, this time it was different. It was a big balloon, and there was a child inside of it.
For hours, Americans were glued to their TVs and to CNN’s online feed as we waited, paralyzed with fascination, to see what would become of the balloon and the poor little boy trapped inside. For an hour, CNN’s Rick Sanchez did his best to make us all believe that some horrific calamity would befall the child, if it hadn’t already, and we were all about to witness it unfold, Live!, on CNN!
Without going any further, we all know how this story turned out. There was no boy. It was a hoax perpetrated by the boy’s parents in the hopes of winning fame and a reality show of their own. But that’s not the story here. The story here is that CNN abdicated the entire ethos of journalism and uncritically shoved this story at us like it was a scripted drama (mostly because it was a scripted con, with CNN the willing mark).
When it was over, CNN never once thought that perhaps in the future they should approach stories that seemed too good to be true with a bit of healthy skepticism.
Fast forward 7+ years, and CNN happily stepped up to the card table and played the mark like Kimmy Schmidt on her first day of freedom from the cult.
A few other news organizations followed CNN’s lead, but wisely (in a manner of speaking) reported the story as being mostly reported by CNN. However, those other news organizations, possibly fearing they had been scooped by CNN on what could turn out to be the biggest story of the decade, breathlessly carried the story themselves.
I’m writing this piece in response to my own “coverage” of this yesterday.
Why does this matter so much?
In the wake of an election in which fake news played a major role in getting donald trump elected, our “reputable” media needs to be above reproach. trump and his supporters are waiting to pounce on every journalistic error to further invalidate the credible media, and every time that credible media gets it wrong, it makes it harder and harder to reputably report a damaging story against trump that does turn out to be true.
This is CNN shouting “Wolf!”
Today, president-elect trump took a large bite out of CNN during his press conference, and no one else in the media seemed willing to come to CNN’s defense.
This matters. CNN better figure this out very quickly.
Meanwhile, in news that doesn’t matter…
Fox News Philadelphia ran a brief segment this morning wishing boxer Joe Lewis a happy 73rd birthday and reported that he could be seen today at Philadelphia’s City Hall for a youth boxing event. There are just two small problems with this story: 1) Joe Lewis’ birthday is January 12th, not January 11th, and 2) Joe Lewis died in 2011.