Misinformation in Corporate Media: April wasn’t a good stretch for US corporate media. Here’s what both sides are saying. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Top Story: Misinformation in Corporate Media
April wasn’t a good stretch for US corporate media. In a nation plagued by misinformation, a bunch of BS, or “Botched Stories”, spread like wildfire. On the left, NBC, The New York Times, and Washington Post were forced to retract a report about the FBI’s communication with Rudy Giuliani. On the right, Fox News anchor John Roberts issued a meaty correction after an on-air graphic suggested that Joe Biden’s climate plan requirements include limiting Americans to one hamburger per month. In essence, the country’s media diet is being poisoned by the chefs who are sourcing their ingredients from well… “anonymous sources.” It’s no wonder our stomachs are upset when we think about politics — sometimes we truly do live in the land of make believe. These stories were just the tip of the iceberg. Here are others you may have missed, what both sides are saying about them, and — speaking of burgers — some food for thought.
On The Left
The left has largely been focusing on two false or misleading stories pushed by the right-wing press. One involves a childrens’ book written by Kamala Harris. The other discusses the supposed ban on red meat.
First up, we have a crosstown rivalry in the Big Apple. In the New York Times, Michael M. Grynbaum highlights a New York Post story that unfairly attacked Vice President Kamala Harris. The article in question “claimed that copies of a children’s book written by Vice President Kamala Harris were provided at taxpayer expense in a ‘welcome kit’ for unaccompanied migrant children at a shelter in Long Beach, CA.” This was not exactly the case, Grynbaum notes. In fact, “no books by Ms. Harris were provided by government officials at the shelter.” Instead, the copy of the book the story was based on “had been donated through a neighborhood toy and book drive for the migrant children.” The NY Post report had “initially…falsely [claimed] that ‘thousands’ of copies of Ms. Harris’s book had been distributed at migrant shelters,” a far cry from what actually took place, says Grynbaum. According to Grynbaum the Post reporter who wrote the original article said she resigned from the [NY Post] because of ‘an incorrect story [she] was ordered to write,” describing the episode as “[her] breaking point.”
Meanwhile, Michael Luciano homes in on the hamburger story in Mediaite. He says this all started when The Daily Mail, British tabloid, “published a lengthy if not loose analysis of Biden’s climate change plan, which presently doesn’t have very many details. Nevertheless, the author cited” the fact that “Americans may have to cut their red meat consumption by a whopping 90 percent,” which “equates to consuming roughly one average sized burger per month.” While that fact carries some weight, Luciano points out that the Daily Mail story “incorrectly implied it was part of Biden’s plan for dealing with climate change.” In fact the U of M study “appears to have no connection whatsoever” to Biden’s climate change plan. Luciano says this didn’t stop several conservative commentators and politicians from running with the story, ultimately leading to this graphic on Fox News.
Finally, Bess Levin elaborates on the burger bewilderment in Vanity Fair. She states, “As CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale notes, the origins of this not-at-all-real story appear to have begun, ironically, with an article by the British tabloid The Daily Mail, which, per CNN, baselessly connected Biden’s climate proposal to a 2020 academic paper estimating how greenhouse gas emissions would be affected if Americans, in theory, change their diets in a variety of ways.” Levin says one of the study’s coauthors stated their “goal is simply to illuminate through research the potential impacts that various behavioral changes can make on greenhouse gas emissions,” before he went on to accuse the “right-wing media” of “fear-mongering about our scientific studies.” As it relates to politics, Levin quotes several “easily duped” Republicans who shared the story despite its publication even “before Biden won the Democratic nomination.”
On The Right
Conservatives and right-leaning outlets document a pattern of deception that serves a larger media narrative intended to undermine Republican interests. Forget the burger story, they’re worried about the whole cow.
Gerard Baker, writing in the Wall Street Journal, describes a “daily procession of flagrant falsehoods, tendentious misrepresentations, deceitful exaggerations, and narrative-driven editorial distortions from many of the nation’s leading media outlets.” He cites a “sensational story” late last week “about the FBI investigation into Rudolph Giuliani” that “the Washington Post, the New York Times, and NBC News all appended grudging retractions to.” Meanwhile, despite the influx of reporting errors, “Corrections, retractions, and updates are frequently made with greater stealth these days,” such as when the Times “subtly revised an important passage of its Pulitzer Prize-winning ‘1619 Project’ after multiple authorities had challenged it.” Baker claims such errors and methodologies “further diminish readers’ faith in the publications” and that reporting “so riddled with disinformation” clouds collective comprehension of important events.
John Hirschauer and Chandler Lasch build on that point in RealClear Politics. They document the practice of “stealth editing,” whereby a publication revises a published piece “without disclosing that [it] has been edited.” The duo cite a recent example of USA Today revising an op-ed by Stacey Abrams to make her “appear much less sympathetic to boycotts” of the MLB All-Star Game in Atlanta. The outlet also added an additional paragraph without including an editor’s note “for more than two weeks after.” Meanwhile, PolitiFact “quoted her revised assertions in the stealth version” as part of their fact-check, with Twitter then citing that PolitiFact reporting in their own “fact-checking.” The writers state parent company Gannett was eventually forced to issue a statement that they “regret the oversight.” Ultimately, the duo recommend journalists stay “on guard against such deceptive practices as they pursue their mission of holding politicians accountable to the truth.”
Lastly, in the New York Post, Glenn H. Reynolds recounts New York Times reporting that “Officer [Brian] Sicknick had died after being struck in the head with a fire extinguisher by violent Trump supporters” during the Capitol melee. He states that although it was false, the story was “quickly repeated by numerous other media outlets.” According to the DC medical examiner, “Sicknick suffered no injuries” and did not “have a reaction to bear spray,” dying of natural causes after the event. Reynolds asks, will the NYT “tell us who [their anonymous sources] were” or “apologize for its error?” He believes the answer is no and quotes journalist Glenn Greenwald, who called the story “essential to [the NYT] narrative” that “Trump and his supporters were ‘insurrectionists.’” Contrary to common beliefs, he continues, “Reporters and editors generally decide on the storyline” first before the facts are “massaged to make sure the public gets the right impression.”
Flag This: Misinformation in Corporate Media
According to Axios, citing Edelman’s annual trust barometer published at the end of January, “fewer than half of all Americans have trust in traditional media.” Moreover, “56% of Americans agree with the statement that ‘Journalists and reporters are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations'” and “58% think that ‘most news organizations are more concerned with supporting an ideology or political position than with informing the public.'” Is that a crisis? Or is that the public just immunizing themselves against the BS, or “Botched Stories”. Click here to share your thoughts.
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