WASHINGTON. Back in 1991, media critic David Shaw was getting the cold shoulder from his “friends” in the L.A. Times’ newsroom. You see, he had just won the Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series regarding the McMartin preschool molestation case.
He wrote a devastating critique of the mainstream media’s sensational and inaccurate reporting concerning the veracity behind the charges leveled against the preschool’s owners and staff. Sensationalism that helped prolong, for six long years, the unjust criminal proceedings against seven innocent people – some of whom rotted in prison for the duration.
This miscarriage of justice was the result of the kind of yellow journalism of which Shaw bravely accused his employer, the Los Angeles Times.
Media critics like the late David Shaw, also called ombudsmen, are a dying breed among the arrogant dissemblers populating today’s fake-news factories.
Watching the watchers
For example, the same year Donald J. Trump was sworn in as America’s 45th president, The New York Times announced it had eliminated its media critic position. Thus shoving Public Editor Liz Spayd out the door and into the mean streets of the Big Apple.
In a memo to his staff, Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. wrote that keeping his reporters honest was much too big a job to “be outsourced to a single intermediary.”
Headline by Twitter mob
A POLITICO story concerning Spayd’s ouster suggested the Times would let “the public serve as the public editor.” This proved prophetic in light of recent reader pressure which forced the Times to change its front-page headline in regards to President Trump’s remarks following the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas.
Headline 1: “Trump Urges Unity vs Racism.”
This headline outraged the political statistician and Trump-hater, Nate Silver. He tweeted that the headline was not “how I would have framed the story.”
A twitter outrage mob quickly assembled – hoisted their digital pitchforks and torches – and demanded the Times change its headline.
Headline 2: “Assailing Hate but not Guns.”
Times spokesman Tom Jolly told the Washington Post the original “headline was bad and has been changed for the second edition.”
Actually, the first headline was matter-of-fact accurate. Its subsequent replacement was laced with Trump-hating, partisan contempt.
Ombudsmen from the right
This pandering to its left-leaning readership has left the Times’ public ombudsman position open for a little competition from the right. And this has the Times quaking in its boots.
Last weekend, the Times published a story under the headline,
“Trump Allies Target Journalists Over Coverage Deemed Hostile to White House.”
According to the story:
“A loose network of conservative operatives allied with the White House is pursuing what they say will be an aggressive operation to discredit news organizations deemed hostile to President Trump by publicizing damaging information about journalists.”
So, you ask, what malicious work is afoot?
“Four people familiar with the operation described how it works, asserting that it has compiled dossiers of potentially embarrassing social media posts and other public statements by hundreds of people who work at some of the country’s most prominent news organizations.”
Journalism’s big lie
For three years the mainstream media has propagated the lie that Donald Trump treasonously conspired with Russia to steal the 2016 election from Democrat Hillary Clinton. We now know it was a phony charge contained within the phony Christopher Steele anti-Trump dossier. A document paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.
After a two-year investigation by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, he grudgingly admitted no evidence existed to suggest any American, not even President Trump, conspired with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
But the Times worries ombudsmen from the political right will successfully erode what little remains of their credibility as “honest brokers” by parroting back factual quotes from journalists who are quick to condemn the president and his followers as racists.
Journalists with feet of clay
A few days ago, pro-Trump Breitbart News reported on its discovery of anti-Semitic tweets by New York Times Senior Editor Tom Wright-Piersanti. In recognition of the new year in 2010, Wright-Piersanti tweeted:
“I was going to say ‘Crappy Jew Year,’ but one of my resolutions is to be less anti-Semitic. So… HAPPY Jew Year. You Jews.”
In a later tweet showing a picture of a car with an illuminated minorah on its roof, Wright-Piersanti asked:
“Who called the Jew-police?”
The offending tweets have since been removed. But if journalists think they can simply erase their social media histories, think again.
“The operation has compiled social media posts from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and stored images of the posts that can be publicized even if the user deletes them, said people familiar with the effort. One claimed that the operation had unearthed potentially ‘fireable’ information on ‘several hundred’ people,” the Times said.
Unfortunately, blackmail may be the only means to keep so-called journalists honest.
Fairness and skepticism are no more
As David Shaw noted in the L.A. Times regarding media coverage of the McMartin preschool case in 1990:
“Reporters and editors often abandoned two of their most cherished and widely trumpeted traditions – fairness and skepticism. As most reporters now sheepishly admit – and as the record clearly shows – the media frequently plunged into hysteria, sensationalism and what one editor calls ‘a lynch mob syndrome’… Besides, if the mainstream press has a bias on any given story, it is less likely to be in favor one side or another and more likely to be in favor of a riveting story – and wild, bizarre charges of child sexual abuse at a respected preschool made an especially riveting story.”
As did the “riveting story” containing “bizarre charges” that candidate Trump and his campaign staff conspired with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to throw an American presidential election. A hysterical lie the mainstream media has yet to “sheepishly” own.
This is a failure of journalistic integrity that continues to erode credibility. All while threatening the future existence of the news business.
Top Image: New York Times newsroom circa 1942.
Public domain photo from PICRYL.