A rush to judgment
Two stories dominated the news over the weekend.
The first was continuing reaction of an explosive BuzzFeed News report that said President Donald Trump directed his attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress. The other was a standoff between Catholic private school students wearing “Make America Great Again” hats and a Native American advocate and Marines Corps veteran in Washington, D.C.
These two stories call into question whether journalists and the media are prone to rushing to judgment before knowing all the facts.
Poynter’s Tom Jones weighed in on how the media is covering those two stories and the real danger of a so-called “hot take.’’
Kudos to CNN “Reliable Sources’’ host Brian Stelter for his outstanding interview with BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith and reporter Anthony Cormier. Stelter pressed the two about BuzzFeed News’ Trump-Cohen-Russian story, often pushing back at their answers and questioning their process. He also didn’t hesitate to point out that there have been ethical questions about one of the story’s authors, Jason Leopold.
During one exchange, Stelter said, “Jason’s past has been scrutinized, including by CNN in recent days, because he was accused of making up stories 15-plus years ago. Do you have any concerns about his credibility personally?’’
Smith said he did not.
Also, Stelter scolded BuzzFeed News for putting out a three-sentence request to Robert Mueller’s office for comment on their story. Stelter said, “This is a shockingly casual way to ask for comment for such a serious story.’’
Stelter added that when he asks for comments on stories, he gives bullet-point details of his stories.
“Come on, one paragraph?’’ Stelter said to Smith. “There’s a dereliction of duty to send a three-sentence email for comment.’’
The transcript for Sunday’s “Reliable Sources’’ can be found here.
Ahmed Hussein-Suale, an undercover reporter from Ghana, was shot and killed last week, seven months after taking part in an investigative project called Number 12 that exposed corruption throughout the Ghana Football Association. Deadspin reported that a member of parliament, Kennedy Agyapong, had gone on television after the release of Number 12 and called for violence against Hussein-Suale.
Two men on a motorbike shot Hussein-Suale in a car he was driving, an attorney for Hussein-Saule’s employer told several media outlets.
The International Press Institute condemned the murder. Ravi R. Prasad, IPI director of advocacy, said, “The brutal murder of Hussein-Suale underscores the grave danger that journalists, especially those who tackle corruption and abuse of power, face in their line of work. The government of Ghana must swiftly investigate this crime and bring the killers to justice.’’
IPI claims that as many as six journalists in Africa were killed last year in connection with their work, although the Committee to Protect Journalists says only one other journalist has been killed in Ghana since 1992.
Best performance of the weekend
The best thing on television all weekend long: the work of CBS NFL analyst Tony Romo during the Patriots-Chiefs game Sunday. This is just the end of his second season, but he has already earned the reputation of being among the greatest sports analysts ever. His knack for predicting plays — he literally was calling out New England’s plays in overtime before the ball was snapped — is unlike anything we’ve ever seen in sports. Check out these examples thanks to The Big Lead. Plus, Romo is enthusiastic, calling a game like there is no other place that he’d rather be. Good news for football fans? CBS has this year’s Super Bowl, meaning Romo will be on the call.
Poynter’s ICYMI headlines:
- Washington Post: Inside the Mueller team’s decision to dispute BuzzFeed’s explosive story on Trump and Cohen
- New York Times: BuzzFeed News in Limbo Land
- Mediaite: Fox & Friends Apologizes for Accidental Graphic Saying Ruth Bader Ginsburg is Dead
- What fact-checkers could gain from covering immigration as a vertical. By
- Did we just experience the hardest decade in journalism? By Kristen Hare
Essential Skills for Rising Newsroom Leaders (Spring). Deadline: March 1.
The Flying Camera: Drone Photography skills webinar series. Deadline: March 11.
- How much does the government shutdown cost? By Jon Greenberg
- Could Donald Trump declare a national emergency for a border wall? Here’s what we know. By Miriam Valverde
PolitiFact is a property of the Poynter Institute.
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One last thing …
The (Jackson, Mississippi) Clarion Ledger has this story about a 101-year-old hunter who managed to kill two deer with one shot. Bertha Vickers said that during the Great Depression, hunting and fishing helped put food on the table, but now she mainly does it for sport.
“My grandson skins them for me, so I don’t have to fool with that,” Vickers said in the article. “I cut up what I wanted. I made steaks, but I gave most of it to my grandchildren. I don’t need a lot.”