Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Failure to Corroborate

"The heirs and their lawyers are up in the dome right now waiting to explain the nature of the crime with facts, figures, and falsehoods. One more F and they won't be drafted."
--Ed Hucheson (Deadline U.S.A.)

Post election hysteria has produced no shortage of examples of slanted media coverage and gaffes. A recent one involves the travel ban order and a Muslim-American Olympic athlete. In an interview last week, when asked whether she knew anyone directly impacted by 'Trump's travel ban,' the athlete, Ibtihaj Muhammad, responded that she "personally was held at Customs for two hours just a few weeks ago" and that she "didn't know why."

The "a few weeks ago" portion of her response should have raised some flags in both the interviewer's and audience's minds at the time. Trump was inaugurated on January 20th and he signed the travel ban order about a week later. The time line discrepancy was not questioned, however.

Before long, media outlets including Time, Sports Illustrated, and ESPN published versions of the interview with either explicit or implicit ties to Trump's executive order.

It was not until a Customs official familiar with the incident stated that the incident happened in December, while Barack Obama was still president, that the circulating narrative was upset. Because she happens to be a frequent traveler abroad, then Muhammad is also frequently subject to random checks that all travelers are subject to. The official also said that the incident took significantly less time to wrap up than was claimed by Muhammad.

Setting aside questions related to Muhammad's motives--motives that are certainly fair to question in this case--the central story once again is the widespread abdication of journalistic duty to get the facts straight. Few in the media attempted to do what they are supposed to do: corroborate a story.

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