Our news media . . . do I even need to continue this sentence? Of course not. But I’m going to. Because sometimes the media is so disgraceful and repugnant that the normal day-to-day epithets are insufficient.
It was almost exactly 40 years ago (April 1981) that the Washington Post had to return a Pulitzer Prize for Janet Cooke’s completely fake story of the eight-year-old heroin addict, “Jimmy’s World,” which no one at the Post thought to question (how does an eight-year-old support a heroin habit exactly?) because the story conformed exactly to elite liberal stereotypes about race and poverty.
The assistant managing editor of the Post at the time who signed off on the piece was a fellow named . . . Bob Woodward—yes, that Bob Woodward, who actually said the following after the hoax was revealed, the Pulitzer returned, and Cooke fired: “It is a brilliant story—fake and fraud that it is. It would be absurd for me or any other editor to review the authenticity or accuracy of stories that are nominated for prizes.” Well okay, but how about when it is initially turned in?
Since the Cooke scandal 40 years ago we’ve seen many sequels at the New York Times and elsewhere (Jayson Blair anyone? Stephen Glass? Sabrina Erdley? Jack Kelley?), and this sordid history of literal “fake news” comes to mind with the revelation earlier this week that the Washington Post‘s huge scoop in early January about President’s Trump’s phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensburger was incorrect. This has to rate as one of the most astonishing corrections in the annals of modern journalism:
Correction: Two months after publication of this story, the Georgia secretary of state released an audio recording of President Donald Trump’s December phone call with the state’s top elections investigator. The recording revealed that The Post misquoted Trump’s comments on the call, based on information provided by a source. Trump did not tell the investigator to “find the fraud” or say she would be “a national hero” if she did so. Instead, Trump urged the investigator to scrutinize ballots in Fulton County, Ga., asserting she would find “dishonesty” there. He also told her that she had “the most important job in the country right now.” A story about the recording can be found here. The headline and text of this story have been corrected to remove quotes misattributed to Trump.
Keep in mind that the fake quotes from the original piece was included in the articles of impeachment against Trump. Will there be any accountability for this at the Post? Will there be any transparency about how the “mistake” was made? Will we learn the identity of the source of the quotes? That might go a ways to helping judge the credibility of the entire journalistic process here.
Don’t hold your breath. Increasingly it seems Trump’s epithet “fake news” isn’t strong enough.
UPDATE: The original source has been identified: Jordan Fuchs, Georgia’s deputy secretary of state, who told the Post that the original quotes were “an interpretation, and not meant to be direct quotes.” PJ Media reports: “Fuchs was not identified in the original story, but referred to as ‘an individual familiar with the call who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the conversation.'” (Emphasis added, though that description should have raised alarm bells.)
Certainly builds a lot of confidence in the rigors of the Post‘s reporting and editing.
Want some good news (that’s true)?
The Biden era is wreaking havoc on the media industry. BuzzFeed on Tuesday announced dozens of layoffs at HuffPost, just weeks after acquiring the liberal website from Verizon Media.
The downsizing, which will affect 47 of the 190 HuffPost employees based in the United States, was designed to “fast-track the path to profitability,” BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti told staff members. Additionally, HuffPost Canada will be shut down, affecting all of its 23 employees.
What—the COVID “Relief for Liberal Interest Groups” bill didn’t include payoffs for the media? Serves them right for the complete incuriosity about reporting what was actually in the bill (less than 15% for actual COVID-related purposes). I guess the whole media take their editorial orders from Nancy Pelosi now: you have to pass the COVID “Relief for Liberal Interest Groups” bill to find out what’s not in it.