Tag Archives: The Fake News Ethics Train Wreck

I Almost Forgot: A Final Observation Regarding The President’s Fake News Awards

I intended to end this post regarding President Trump’s Fake News Awards with what I felt was an important observation, and when the post became longer than I intended, I forgot to add it.

So I will add it now:

Presidents shouldn’t hand out compendiums of fake news and poor journalism at year’s end. Journalists should. Newspapers, like the Times, Post, and Wall Street Journal. Broadcast news organizations, like the major networks and CNN. They should do it because it’s important, and because it’s news.

They should do it because they should want their readers and viewers to know that they care about biased, incompetent news reporting, and recognize how damaging it is to the public and our democracy.

They should do it to prove that they know what unethical journalism is. They should do it because true professions are capable of self-policing, and maintaining ethical standards by pointing out serious breaches. Bar associations publish the names of lawyers who have been disciplined and what they did to violate the profession’s rules. Professions that try to protect their worst members have sided with them and against the public they are pledged to serve.

If news organizations treated unethical journalism as newsworthy, reporters and editors would know that someone was watching who knew when they were cutting corners and crossing lines. The public would know that when  the news media betrayed the public trust, the profession wouldn’t circle the wagons, make excuses, or deny anything was wrong, but instead publicize the misconduct, explain why it was unacceptable, and admonish the miscreant.

News organizations don’t do this, do they? Oh, CNN will attack Fox News, and Fox News will criticize MSNBC, but that has nothing to do with ethics, and everything to do with partisanship and competition. If the New York Times were trustworthy, it would regularly report on its own biased stories and fake news, as well as those of  CNN and Fox News. If CNN were ethical, it would treat the disgraceful bias and incompetence of its colleagues—and itself—in 2017 as the vitally important news story that it is.

That none of the news organizations have the integrity and courage to cover this story tells us everything we need to know about the current state of journalism in the United States of America.

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Well, I Guess There’s No Way Around It: Considering The President’s Fake News Awards

I don’t really care what the President says is fake news. What matters on Ethics Alarms is what I decide is fake news. His much ballyhooed list of fake news items ignore that many inexcusable examples that have nothing to do with him, like various stories designed to impugn conservatives and normal people because journalists think they are stupid, or intentionally misleading headlines, or when reporters sneak false characterizations into their “news stories” as facts, or publishing gossip as fact using anonymous sources,  or passing along falsity in the course of reporting a related matter, as in this instance, when NBC’s reporter said, “President Donald Trump returned to one of his most derogatory insults Friday, referring to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” — a jab at her Native American ancestry.” (Psst! NBC! Senator Warren has no Native American ancestry.)

However, Ethics Alarms is duty bound to assess the President’s “2017 Fake News Awards,” which he released last week.

No, I don’t believe he should be releasing such awards. It’s beneath the Office,  and he isn’t Seth Myers. (If there were a a fair, satirical comic who made any attempt at partisan balance, this would be a good gimmick for him or her. There isn’t. That’s another problem.) Here is the list, with comments from me:

#1. “The New York Times’ Paul Krugman claimed on the day of President Trump’s historic, landslide victory that the economy would never recover.”

Comment: Ugh. Signature significance for bad staff work and stupidity: the very first item isn’t fake news, wasn’t news at all, and didn’t even occur in 2017.  On election night in 2016, Krugman stated a prediction and an opinion, and made as ass out of himself. That’s certainly not news. So right off the bat, we know that the 2017 “Fake News Awards” are more about using these items as an excuse to trumpet Trump’s successes.Got it.

If I didn’t have to, that would be sufficient to make me stop reading, or caring.

#2. “ABC News’ Brian Ross CHOKES and sends markets in a downward spiral with false report.”

#3. CNN FALSELY reported that candidate Donald Trump and his son Donald J. Trump, Jr. had access to hacked documents from WikiLeaks.

Comment:  #2 and #3, both covered on ethics alarms, are the crown jewels of the fake news collection, among the  hundreds that shredded the mainstream media’s reputation for trustwortiness durin the year.  For the Whataboutists out there—and you know who you are!—these two alone destroy the “But Fox News was just as unfair to Obama!” baloney. In 8 years, no story broken by Fox were as unforgivable as Ross’s bombshell claim that Brian Ross went live on ABC last week and announced the fake news story that then-candidate Donald Trump had instructed Michael Flynn to make contact with the Russians, that smoking gun that all “the resistance” had been searching for, dreaming about, wishing were out there. It triggering a massive stock market sell-off. Seven hours later, ABC sheepishly admitted that it was President-elect Trump who had made the request of Flynn, which is called “being President.”    Ross was suspended for four weeks without pay, and ABC said he wouldn’t be trusted to cover the President any more. This itself was outrageous: if he’s so biased that he can’t cover the President, Ross is too unprofessional to be a journalist at all, certainly at ABC News. (Maybe for the Hooten Holler Gazette.) So far, Ross has yet to resurface, though his exile was supposedly up.
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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/18/2017: Life Is An Unethical Cabaret, My Friends…At Least Lately

Good Morning!

1  Really now: What’s the matter with you? How many of these will it take for everyone to agree that it’s intolerable?

Let’s recap, shall we? Last week, Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier confidently cited a “rumor” that that the President was going to fire Special Counsel Mueller imminently. (It would not be undeserved.) The rumor was then treated by the mainstream news media as news, which is, you know, supposed to be fact. This “news” then was considered sufficiently alarming that multiple Democrats and “resistance” members, including former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder (disgracefully) advocated an insurrection, as in “taking the streets.”

Asked about this rumor qua news, President Trump said, no, he wasn’t considering firing Mueller. Did uou know that in the old days, when journalists at least pretended to be ethical, the President would have been asked about a rumor involving his intentions before it was published as news, and before assholes on the Left used it to advocate social unrest?

The episode is beyond unethical. How can anyone support 1) this 2) people who act like this 3) journalists who facilitate this,  4) a party that continues to encourage this, or 5) anyone who supports or enables 1)-4) ?

2. He just doesn’t get it…like a lot of people. Tavis Smiley, whose problems were discussed in the previous post, said this morning that while he did engage in sexual relations with his some subordinates, they were all consensual and therefore did not constitute sexual harassment or an abuse of power. He’s oh so wrong.

Subordinates never have complete freedom to reject the sexual overtures of their boss, so they never can truly consent. It is inherently an abuse of power. Moreover, third party harassment is inevitable, as other female employees are sent the message that they work in a harem. Are they required to submit to the sultan’s desires? If they aren’t asked to submit by their Great Alpha Male, does that mean they have displeased him?

That a hostile work environment, Tavis.

3. ‘If you could see her from my eyes’..Smiley’s attitude conforms to that of a lot of sexual harassers, including, in all likelihood, the President’s. It wasn’t sexual harassment, they believe, because who wouldn’t want to receive their sexual advances?

This made me reflect on this hard-edged number from the film version of “Cabaret,” sung by Joel Grey’s evil MC as sly anti-Semitism for laughs. (I did not know that the number at one point was cut from the stage version because audiences didn’t get the satire until I saw a documentary about Jewish-themed musicals on PBS last night)

If the chilling last line of the song were altered to “It wouldn’t be harassment at all!,” with the “gorilla” representing the way so many women are treated in the workplace, the M.C. would be accurately expressing  Matt’s, Al’s, Harvey’s, Bill’s, Ben’s, Dustin’s, and Tavis’s creed.

4. Is Al Gore next? Not if the New York Times can help it. In a story detailing the rampant sexual abuse and harassment of hotel employees by guests, Al Gore’s name never comes up. The story includes the stunning results of  union survey of hotel workers in Chicago found that 58% of them had been sexually harassed by a guest. Yet in 2010, when three hotel masseuses claimed that Gore sexually harassed him, his denials were sufficient to make the episode quickly discounted and forgotten. What would happen if the same allegations were made today? If Gore had been elected President last years, would Senator Gillibrand be calling for his resignation?

Plan J would seem to demand it.

5. Why sexual harassment allegations are not necessarily credible. From The Hill: Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day: “The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: … And My Epiphany About Investigative Reporting'”

 

Arthur in Maine, who has kindly featured me on his radio show and actually given me sufficient time to explain things without being cut off, submitted the following discourse focusing on my embarrassingly slow-to-form realization that all investigative reporting into political matters had to be considered as manipulated to serve some political agenda by the news organization.

I’ll have some observations at the end, but first, here is AIM’s Comment of the Day on Comment Of The Day: ‘“The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: I Can Say The Republican Party Is Rotting…”, And My Epiphany About Investigative Reporting:

…Why are any of you – including Jack – surprised? Media is, first and foremost, a BUSINESS. It doesn’t sell news – it provides news as a mechanism for generating advertising (in the case of NPR, underwriting and/or listener) support.

The United States is one of the only so-called free nations that embraces the concept of objective media. In fact, the whole concept started in this nation – with Joseph Pulitzer (recognize the name?). In other words, the concept of objective media is an American conceit.

Pulitzer’s drive towards so-called “objective” media certainly raised standards, but it wasn’t due to the noble idea that newspapers – pretty much the only game in town at his time – should be objective. Pulitzer was the visionary who recognized that the way news was being reported was scaring off the advertisers, and the advertisers were way more important than the folks who plunked down a penny or two to buy a copy at the news stand.

American media at the dawn of the 20th century wasn’t dissimilar to the way it is today – and much like it has ALWAYS been in nations in which the media isn’t state-controlled. It’s rambunctious. It’s partisan. It wears its beliefs on its sleeve – both with regard to what it covers and the way it covers it. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/10/2017: Posts Collide! Journalists Self-Destruct! Women Undermine Themselves! And A Poll…

Good morning!

1  Bingo!  Amy Alkon, aka the Advice Goddess, has been staking out lonely territory as a feminist who feels the #MeToo mob and its attendant hysteria is setting the cause of women back, not advancing it. Here most recent post begins by mocking an LA Times hysteric who wrote that

“What happens when society ignores sexual assault? You get Lesotho, where girls aren’t even safe at the grocery store…”

Akon responded in part…

This sort of ridiculous hysteria — that our country is anything like a place where 19% of teenaged girls are forced to marry — makes things here cumulatively worse, not better.This is the safest, most modern, most individual rights-driven country in the world.

If you are in a profession where there’s a great deal of money and power, there are likely to be sociopaths of various stripes who will prey on you — whether you’re a man or a woman. No, sexual assault should not be ignored, but we also don’t help ourselves by turning an invitation out for a drink by a co-worker into some sort of victimization.

If it isn’t your boss trying to manipulate you into the sack when you want no such thing; if there’s no quid pro quo; if requests for a date stop when you ask for them to stop (or maybe after the second time), do you really need to identify as a victim?…

People have conflicting goals and desires. Any two people. Heterosexual men negotiate these with each other. They’re very comfortable with it — as am I, no matter what sex or sexuality you are or have. If one person isn’t holding the other down or saying “fuck me, or you lose your job…” …If there’s merely a need for a mild rebuff (like, “Sorry, I don’t date co-workers), well, this seems to me like a normal part of adult life.

I predict two things from the current hysteria (where, say, a stolen kiss from a drunken co-worker is equated with Harvey Weinsteining and may even be seen as a firing offense):

1. Employers will think twice about hiring women, especially when they have the option of hiring a commensurately qualified male.

2. Men will start seeing escort workers in larger numbers than ever, and it will become more acceptable than it’s ever been to pay for sex.

2. Who will save journalism, and when will it admit is needs saving? Washington Post politics reporter Dave Weigel‏ mocked the President for declaring his Florida rally “packed to the rafters” last week. Wiegel’s tweet included a picture of a half-empty Pensacola Bay Center.This was, it turned out, a mistake, but also a mistake brought about by confirmation bias, sloppiness, and hostility to the President. Once again, the news media handed the President the ammunition to discredit it, as it deserves to be discredited.Trump tweeted after the rally...

“@DaveWeigel WashingtonPost put out a phony photo of an empty arena hours before I arrived the venue, w/ thousands of people outside, on their way in…Real photos now shown as I spoke. Packed house, many people unable to get in. Demand apology & retraction from FAKE NEWS WaPo!”

Weigel apologized, tweeting,

“Sure thing: I apologize…Was confused by the image of you walking in the bottom right corner…It was a bad tweet on my personal account, not a story for Washington Post. I deleted it after like 20 minutes. Very fair to call me out.”

Weigel is a well-known Washington Post reporter, and the fact that he botched this in his own name rather than the Post’s doesn’t diminish its harm to the credibility of the already reeling news media one whit. The apology was nice, but it was also unavoidable. While Trump certainly has primed journalist skepticism with his adversarial relationship to reality, reporters are supposed to be professionals, and leaping to conclusions without confirmation or sufficient evidence isn’t professional, or worthy of public trust. Fact: Weigel would not have done this to Barack Obama.

Weigel’s gaffe was minor compared to CNN’s fiasco the day before, or the Brian Ross episode at ABC, but it deserves to be considered as part of the same pathology. Wrote Glenn Reynold on his blog today,

In attempting to “denormalize” Trump, they’ve denormalized themselves. If they simply reported fairly and accurately, without their screamingly obvious bias, they’d be able to do him much more damage. But they can’t help themselves.

Bingo. They can’t help themselves, and the ethics alarms when bias looms just don’t sound. Today the New York Times has a front page story, complete with a creepy photo of the President, featuring a long, insulting quote from Nancy Pelosi about how “unprepared” Trump was for the job. Oddly, nobody thought, “Wait, did we publish anything like this about the most unqualified President elected up to that  point? You know, the last one?”
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December 8, 2017, When Our Old And New News Media Proved Beyond A Doubt That They Were Untrustworthy And If Not Completely Useless, Close Enough For Horsehoes

I am marking down today to cite the next time someone tells me that the news media isn’t disastrously biased, or that President Trump is threatening the First Amendment when he tweets about “fake news” or untrustworthy journalists.

Or perhaps, as an alternative, I will hurl myself into a woodchipper.

Democracy cannot survive, must less thrive, without an informed citizenry, which can only be achieved with an objective, independent, competent journalism sector.

We no longer have one. Behold the nauseating developments of today: Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Jimmy Carter

Say what you will about former President Jimmy Carter, he has never shied away from confronting what he believes are unpleasant truths. Thus he earns an Ethics Hero designation by telling New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd;

“I think the media have been harder on Trump than any other president certainly that I’ve known about. I think they feel free to claim that Trump is mentally deranged and everything else without hesitation.”

Hilariously, USA Today immediately proved Carter’s point by writing, in its naturally objective and fair story on the quote,

“Perhaps Carter is seeking to placate Trump as part of a job interview: The 93-year-old former president said he is willing to undertake a diplomatic mission to North Korea to discuss its nuclear weapons program.”

In a related and illuminating story, former NPR CEO Ken Stern, nine years after he left the taxpayer- funded radio news network, has suddenly realized that there may be some liberal bias in the news media! His op-ed for the New York Post begins,

“Most reporters and editors are liberal — a now dated Pew Research Center poll found that liberals outnumber conservatives in the media by some 5 to 1, and that comports with my own anecdotal experience at National Public Radio. When you are liberal, and everyone else around you is as well, it is easy to fall into groupthink on what stories are important, what sources are legitimate and what the narrative of the day will be.”

Gee, that’s kind of nice. What we usually hear from reporters, editors and media management is that the accusation of partisan bias, based on such overwhelming evidence that it makes a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard look like a breeze, is just a Fox News myth, a conservative concoction and a false talking point. It would have been more nice, of course, if Ken Stern had come to this obvious conclusion and used his position to do something, rather than wait nine years and speak up when the average informed person reads his name on an article and thinks, “Who the hell is Ken Stern”?

I confess, I detest these too little, too late confessions of enlightenment, which are usually self-serving. I smell a book and an interview tour, don’t you?

Well, I won’t be reading it. Later in his conveniently tardy piece, Stern writes, Continue reading

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