LOS ANGELES — To many Americans, the popular buzz term “fake news” is shorthand for the state of journalism in the United States. According to 2017 Gallup News poll, only 37 percent of Americans believe news outlets report straight facts.
In PragerU’s newest video, Why No One Trusts the Mainstream Media, Sharyl Attkisson, investigative journalist, host of news program Full Measure, and author of The Smear, discusses how, “formerly well-respected news organizations and experienced national reporters are making the sorts of mistakes that wouldn’t be tolerated in journalism school.”
After 35 years in broadcast journalism, Attkisson identifies three factors which explain the current state of the news.
First, the distinct lines separating news from opinion have become hopelessly blurred. “It’s never been harder for Americans to separate news that’s real from news what’s not. Editorializing and subjectivity are common and even encouraged among reporters,” says Attkisson.
Attkisson cites the example of a May 14, 2016, New York Times article, “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved with Women in Private.” In the article, Rowanna Lane, an ex-girlfriend of President Trump, seemed to accuse Donald Trump of predatory behavior.
However, after the article was published, Lane, the supposed “victim,” was furious, claiming the Times put a “negative connotation” on an experience she did not think of as negative at all. Although the main source of the article discredited the entire premise of the story, The New York Times offered no apology and never printed a correction.
Second, despite journalists’ personal feelings toward a politician, they have the obligation to treat the individual equally—yet this rarely happens.
In May 2008, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama said he visited “57 states.” It was a simple mistake which drew little attention since most people just assumed he meant 47 states. In contrast, Sarah Palin was relentlessly ridiculed by the media for a similar gaff when she mistakenly said “North Korean allies” instead of “South Korean allies.”
Third, journalists have become tools of politicians and spin-meisters in order to get something in return, a method known as “transactional journalism.”
Attkisson cites the story behind another article, this time by Atlantic reporter Marc Ambinder, who was promised an advance copy of a speech by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton if he followed certain ground rules: “Describe Clinton’s voice as ‘muscular’ … and, ‘Don’t say you were blackmailed,’” instructed Clinton aide Philippe Reines. Ambinder’s reply was simply “Got it.”
Ambinder’s resulting article described Clinton as the “muscular” voice behind then-president Obama’s foreign policy. Although Ambinder justified his actions, Attkisson asserts that a serious journalist making such a basic ethical violation reveals the true state of today’s news media.
“[Americans] want their news straight up. But that’s often not what they’re getting and they know it,” says Attkisson. “I’m frequently asked, ‘Can the news be fixed?’ The answer is yes… but the first step to fixing a problem is admitting that we have one. Until we do that, nothing can change.”
MEDIA NOTE: PragerU contributor, Sharyl Attkisson is available for interview, as is PragerU’s Founder Dennis Prager, and CEO Marissa Streit. Please contact: MediaInquiries@theKcompany.co.
PragerU, founded by Dennis Prager in 2011, is a not-for-profit organization that helps millions understand the values that shaped America and provides millions of Americans and people around the world with the intellectual ammunition they need to advocate for limited government, individual responsibility and economic freedom. In 2016 alone, PragerU’s videos received over 250 million views, a figure that will eclipse 350 million in 2017. PragerU is a resource for all who value liberty. It is a threat to all those who do not.