Developing now, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019
RUSH TO JUDGMENT – AND ITS LESSONS: The much-discredited BuzzFeed story alleging that President Trump urged former personal attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress and the viral video of the encounter between Covington High School students and Native American protestors in Washington, D.C. last weekend have two things in common and one very important lesson… Both were examples of the media’s rush to judgment before the facts surfaced. And both illustrate the media’s hatred of Trump and shows how that anti-Trump bias infects the way they cover the news.
BuzzFeed still stands by its report, even though Special Counsel Robert Mueller has said it was “not accurate.” But as “Media Buzz” host Howard Kurtz points out, the damage had already been done, with several media outlets repeating the erroneous report, drumming the impeachment alarm, seemingly on loop, with the somewhat flimsy caveat “if true.” Pundits and Democratic lawmakers followed in tow, on the airwaves and on social media.
Coverage of the encounter between the Covington students and Native American group – specifically student Nick Sandmann and activist Nathan Phillips – was arguably much worse. Initial coverage, fed by an abbreviated video of the encounter and a rabid social media mob, portrayed Sandmann, a junior, and his classmates as young “MAGA” hat wearing, Trump-supporting racists who were taunting Native Americans and people of color. And people on both the left and the right jumped to condemn the students before a longer video told a different, more nuanced story.
Kneejerk pundits rushed to delete their kneejerk tweets. Some journalists, pundits and celebrities, like actress Jamie Lee Curtis, owned up to their own mistakes in rushing to judgment. But not everyone did. The lesson learned here, as Kurtz writes, is this: “There’s no harm in waiting for more details before denouncing people based on fragmentary information, even if you have to restrain yourself from joining the hot-take crowd.”