WASHINGTON, March 1, 2015 — The words “truth in media” have become an expression of irony and a forlorn hope. The Rolling Stone rape story and Brian Williams’ Chinook charade showed the media at their worst: sensationalistic, lazy, self-absorbed and dishonest. Now The Daily Beast has joined the parade, repeating without followup fact-checking the bad reporting of Jezebel writer Natasha Vargas-Cooper in her recent story on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
This is not the first time the Beast has roared with low standards. As Breitbart observes, this “is the fourth major journalistic embarrassment for The Daily Beast in less than a year.” The others include pasting a target over Sen. Rand Paul’s face (the Beast went hysterical over Sara Palin’s use of targets in her political literature), its editor’s use of a sexual expletive to scream at Paul, and to announce, “EXCLUSIVE: ROMNEY RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT.” That last one led John Nolte to observe, with just a bit of snark, “Daily Beast motto: Why be right when you can be first?”
Our news media aren’t immune to partisan politics. Whether it is the right’s Fox News or left’s Daily Kos, media voices are too often driven by their ideology. By itself that isn’t a problem and it’s nothing new. It is permissible to speak badly of those you disagree with, but it is important to get the facts right.
A Daily Beast correspondent in Wisconsin picked up on Jezebel’s false report that “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has proposed that universities no longer be required to report the number of sexual assaults on campus to the Department of Justice.” His Daily Beast article ended with, “No explanation for the deletions is given.”
“A column may be an especially derivative form of journalism, but Fareed Zakaria is far from the only columnist who eats the seed corn and just has to hope that somehow there will be more next year. Newsmagazine writers, when there were newsmagazines, also had to be masters of the borrowing art. And today we have bloggers, aggregators and curators whose work is almost entirely a matter of collecting a rearranging stuff that is the work of other people.”
That is what happened here. Those who toil in today’s online media are generally not reporters; they are columnists, analysts and experts. Some of them are very, very good. But few are creating new stories, revealing new facts, finding a new scoop.
So we have this latest brouhaha against Walker. First there was the ill-reported Jezebel story that was published without fact checking. Rather than question the original, Jezebel seems to have doubled down and followed up with a new article, “Walker’s AG and Undergrads Hate His Sex Assault Cut: The 2016 Hopeful Just Made a Bunch of Enemies.”
“Seems,” because even though there remain references to the second article, it was apparently removed from the site. That suggests that Jezebel does not have a policy against removing bad reporting.
Or not swearing in their “editorializing.”
Jezebel launched the misinformation that was then picked up by liberal “collectors of the work of other people”, The Huffington Post, Truth Seekers, The Week and Freedom Eden. It was then shared via social media, and Walker was attacked for something that did not happen as it was reported.
The Daily Beast, Jezebel and others issued retractions after the school clarified the situation, but in the case of the Beast, only after leaving the story in place for at least 12 hours after Jezebel’s error (if we’re being charitable; some would call it a lie) was reported. By then the damage was done,.
Many who read the first stories will never see the retractions; in some (liberal) minds, Walker will always be the governor who felt it unnecessary for colleges to report rape and domestic violence. We will eventually see that meme appear in comments made right here on CommDigiNews. If Walker advances through the GOP field, his critics will repeat it more frequently.
Liberal commenters and the liberal media cannot resist revisiting the false, yet damning, “Republican war on women” meme. Too many voters are quick to repeat it ad nauseum.
Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal eliminates requirement that colleges report rapes on campus http://t.co/hdZdTQvYWg
— Taegan Goddard (@politicalwire) February 27, 2015
The article that Goddard so quickly tweeted out was:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) “proposed budget — which would cut $300 million out of the state’s beloved public university system — has a non-fiscal bombshell tucked in between its insane pages,” Jezebel reports.
“Under Walker’s budget, universities would no longer have to report the number of sexual assaults that take place on a campus to the Department of Justice. Under Walker’s plan, university employees who witness a sexual assault would no longer have to report it.”
Huffington Post: “Walker’s two-year spending plan does not appear to replace the rape reporting requirements with anything, and it’s out of step with federal law. Colleges are currently required to incorporate prevention programs and information about sexual assault reporting options in orientation per the Violence Against Women Act.”
Update: Jezebel updates the story noting the University “requested that Gov. Walker delete the requirements because efforts were redundant.”
Notice the tiny update that does not accept responsibility for the lack of individual due diligence in their quickness to smear Walker. None of these publications has removed the content in error, noting the article was removed for its inaccuracies.
So the University of Wisconsin requested that Gov. Walker remove a requirement that all 26 campuses report allegations of sexual assaults to the state every year; this was confirmed by a UW spokesman on Friday. According to the spokesman, the school already submits that information to the federal government.
According to the AP:
The proposal to delete the annual reports to the state Department of Justice is among dozens of requirements that would be removed as part of Walker’s plan to decouple the university from most state laws and state oversight.
Though the budget proposal came out earlier this month, the sex assault request was explained in a summary released Thursday by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
UW System spokesman Alex Hummel said Friday that the university requested the change because information given to the state is duplicative of data required to be reported to the U.S. Department of Education under federal law. The university also posts the information on its website.
Concerns that Walker’s plans call for removing information about campus sexual assaults from orientation and student information materials are also false
“Student education and mandatory reporting are important practices also built in, and those practices are going to continue on our campuses,” Hummel said in an email. “We are not lessening our commitment here or at our institutions one iota.”
According to Breitbart, “the changes in duplicative reporting come about as part of the UW system wanting to move to a ‘public authority model,’ a move that the university has been asking for for years and that would require Board of Regents would set nearly all the policies—including sexual assault reporting—that are currently mandated under state law.”
Walker is under fire for his proposed $300 million cut to higher education. Some believe that cutting costs is never good; money needs to allocated differently, not reduced. However, that cut, according to reports, is just 13 percent of the the state’s support for UW and 2.5 percent of the school’s total budget.
Walker may actually pose a challenge to either Clinton or Warren for the White House in 2016. He is already challenging Jeb Bush, coming in just behind Rand Paul in the CPAC straw poll; and we all know that the possibility of Paul’s getting the nod from the GOP is remote.
This blowup follows Howard Dean’s declaration that Walker’s lack of a college degree makes him unsuitable for the White House, an argument that fell flatter than a tractor-rolled Wisconsin cow pie.
At this point Walker must be saying, “Bring it on, liberal media. Bring it on.”