Morning Mediawire: An Olympic farewell, plus the latest on the school shooting

Even as the Florida Legislature advances a bill that requires all schools to display the motto “In God We Trust,” a lot of the rest of us are thinking: Trust nothing.

That’s because serious misinformation, misdirection, omissions and blatant hoaxes have now become the new norm in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas mass shooting. The list of lies is growing: a fake tweet from a reporter; a fake but realistic depiction of the Miami Herald website with dire warnings of more violence; people claiming the students from the school were “crisis actors;” a fake conspiracy theory on YouTube that became the No. 1 trending video. CNN has a good roundup here of several more.

After a late Thursday tweet from President Donald Trump, a new controversy arose that lasted through the weekend. Seeing a report on the Tucker Carlson Show, the president tweeted:  “'School shooting survivor says he quit @CNN Town Hall after refusing scripted question.' @TuckerCarlson. Just like so much of CNN, Fake News. That’s why their ratings are so bad! MSNBC may be worse.”

The student, Colton Haab, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, was asserting that CNN wanted to script his question, so he had decided to withdraw. Conservative media immediately took up his cause and kept fueling his narrative of events, despite CNN’s repeated denials of his claims.

It wasn’t until CNN released a transcript of the email exchange late Friday afternoon between a producer for the town hall meeting and Haab that his version of events came under heightened scrutiny. According to Erik Wemple of the Washington Post, the email exchange appears to have been doctored.

The original email from CNN said: “This is what Colton and I discussed on the phone that he submitted.” (Emphasis ours.) The purportedly doctored email says: “This is what Colton and I discussed on the phone.”

As Wemple also wrote, “A CNN source claims that the edit leaves the network open to the charge that it ‘dictated’ the question and obscures the fact that Colton Haab submitted it.”

Had HuffPost and Fox News not submitted the reportedly doctored email to CNN as part of their due diligence in reporting the story, the discrepancy might have gone unnoticed.

There’s a lesson for all of us in this chain of events, and we said it right up front: Trust nothing. We’ll add: Verify everything.

* * *

There were some other stories from the shooting that caught our eye this weekend:

  • On Sunday, families and faculty made an emotional return to the campus on for a "reunification." They were there to pick up personal belongings. Classes are scheduled to resume on Wednesday. 

  • Still-grieving members of Marjory Stoneman Douglas came from behind to win a Florida state hockey title on Sunday. Said senior Matthew Horowitz: "This wasn't for us. This was for the 17 victims."

  • POLITICO Magazine asks: “Are we putting too much pressure on the Parkland survivors? We shouldn’t expect quick wins on gun control — we should be preparing these kids for a long, bitter fight.”

  • The NRA is dealing with a significant corporate backlash, with companies such as United and Delta dropping partnerships.

  • Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Post says the lobbying group is taking a page right out of Trump's playbook by attacking the mainstream media as "loving mass shootings." They are "wrong, disgustingly wrong," she wrote.

  • In Thursday’s newsletter, we talked with some editorial cartoonists about their work since the shooting. Now the Washington Post has this compilation of some more good work on the subject.

  • You might have seen tweets last week referencing the Little Rock students who made history by integrating the schools there. They, too were accused of being actors, and the Washington Post has this look at how that played out.

  • As the country looks to Florida to see if it will now change its gun-friendly laws, all eyes are on the state’s feared NRA lobbyist, Marion Hammer, who was profiled in this New Yorker piece. Here’s why, reports the Tampa Bay Times: "My lawyers are waiting to look over everything they are doing," Hammer says of work by legislators to strengthen some regulations.

  • The Broward County Sheriff's Office has said they responded to 23 calls involving suspected shooter Nikolas Cruz. But the number is double that, BuzzFeed reported early Sunday.

  • “If being in this room was going to undo her, she needed it to happen before they returned.” Lisa Gartner of the Tampa Bay Times, accompanied journalism teacher Melissa Falkowski back into her classroom at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School late last week.


(Photo courtesy of Helen Pridmore)

Election results — 47 years later

The Columbus, Mississippi, Commercial Dispatch, like lots of newspapers, has a lot of artifacts hidden in its old offices on Main Street. But recently one was discovered that stood out. It was an old chalkboard that still contained the results from the Aug. 24, 1971, Democratic primary election.

After cleaning it up and preserving the chalk as best they could, they started researching the races. One of them, as it happens, was the sheriff’s race pitting challenger Tom Glover against Penn Taylor in which Glover pulled off the upset.

I remember it well, since he was my dad and we had all campaigned for him. My mom, Peggy, remembered it, too, in this story the Dispatch wrote about the board and of days gone by when a chalkboard in front of the newspaper was the best way of getting election results out.

My mom is 86 now, and is pretty blind, but she still subscribes to two newspapers, including the afternoon Dispatch. She melted my heart when she gave them this quote: “But wouldn't it be fun if it could be like that again, everybody going out and watching the election in front of the newspaper?" she said. "Imagine that." Indeed.

Quick hits

WHEN MONICA MET KEN: Writing for Vanity Fair in a story published Sunday, Monica Lewinsky describes meeting special prosecutor Ken Starr for the first time — 20 years after he made her life "a living hell" as he pursued charges against then President Bill Clinton. It's worth a read.

THE LOOMING SHOWDOWN: Two men, of similar beginnings. One became a war hero; the other, a draft avoider. Both have spent much of their lives in offices; both find comfort on the golf course. The Post’s Marc Fisher and Sari Horwitz chart the different planets of Robert Swan Mueller III and Donald John Trump, born into privilege 22 months apart in New York City, and how an investigation is heading toward collision.

C’MON, FACEBOOK AND GOOGLE: That’s what Charlie Warzel of BuzzFeed has been asking with every piece of disinformation broadcast on the powerful platforms. More precisely: “How is it that the average untrained human can do something that multibillion-dollar technology companies that pride themselves on innovation cannot? And beyond that, why is it that — after multiple national tragedies politicized by malicious hoaxes and misinformation — such a question even needs to be asked?”

THE FACEBOOK DISCOUNT: Trump paid, according to WIRED magazine, Detroit prices for Facebook ads, while Hillary Clinton spent Manhattan rates. That is, up to 10 times as much was charged to Clinton because her ads were not as “click-baity.” Writes former Facebook employee Antonio García Martínez, “Facebook users in swing states who felt Trump had taken over their news feeds may not have been hallucinating.”

L.A. TIMES WEBSITE REMOVES CRYPTOCURRENCY MINING SCRIPT: The hack, discovered on Feb. 9, was finally removed last Thursday, reported. The Java miner was installed on L.A. Homicide Watch, which is operated by the L.A. Times.

FACT-CHECKING TRUMP’S CPAC SPEECH: PolitiFact did the honors.

THE WAKANDA READER: “Black Panther,” which has already earned $700 million worldwide, has sparked interest in the fictional African nation at its geographic center. Brentin Mock of CityLab has this following compendium on all things Wakanda.

New on

  • The New York Times and the New Orleans Times Picayune teamed up for an amazing report this weekend on Louisiana's coastal erosion. Kristen Hare describes how the partnership originated.

  • Welcome to The Upside, a new solutions journalism section that The Guardian has launched to a warm reception.

  • There are 149 fact-checking projects in 53 countries. That’s a new high.

  • After sudden death, local public radio stations are bringing Gothamist, DCist and LAist back to life.

  • Visual journalism is a vital part of having an online report. But what happens when your newsroom doesn’t have enough or even any?

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David Beard contributed to this report.

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    Anne Glover

    Anne Glover worked as an editor at the Tampa Bay Times for more than 33 years, and has been a visiting faculty member at Poynter teaching copy editing and leadership.


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