Last week, my favorite talk radio host had a call in segment about whether or not the U.S. left and right could ever again really come together as a country. Bear with me as I take a roundabout approach to share my thoughts.
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
Keith Eldridge is a reporter/anchor for KOMO, the ABC affiliate in Seattle. Yesterday morning, he tweeted the series of photos on the right. They tell the sad tale of a Tacoma family whose husband/father, Armando Chavez Corona, was detained by ICE after having been rear-ended on the freeway.
His wife said she had no idea why that might have happened and blamed it on President Trump. His teen-aged daughter worried that she might never see her father again. That’s awful, right? I mean, the accident wasn’t even his fault!
Do you notice anything missing from the tweets? Say, the reason why ICE might have gotten involved? I wondered, too, so I tweeted Keith Eldridge to ask, but got no response. I had to wait, as it says in one of his tweets, for the story at 4:00 and 6:00 p.m.
As it turns out, Chavez Corona was arrested because he is a convicted felon who had been previously deported. This couple has been married for 16 years. How likely is it that Ms. Chavez didn’t know her husband had a felony drug conviction? Keith Eldridge surely knew before his morning tweets, but chose not to share that information.
Click through and you’ll see that Eldridge finally tweeted the rest of the story 8-1/2 hours later. The story posted on their website is also correct, but how many people didn’t or couldn’t get back to the story later in the day and were left with the wrong impression?
The obvious problem here is that for some people, the “facts” about this story are “Trump is a horrible person who wants to rip apart this lovely family,” while for others, the “facts” are “Thank God that Trump is deporting convicted felons.”
Granted, this isn’t a terribly important story on its own, but it’s part of a pattern that’s become increasingly obvious in the weeks since the election. The Federalist has compiled a list of 16 fake news stories, some of which are also not so important on their own but, taken as a whole, paint a very negative picture of the president and the GOP. These are national stories, but how many local stories like the one presented here have run?
So my questions are:
- Did Eldridge have a responsibility to paint a fuller picture of the story in his morning tweets?
- Was the lie of omission part of a calculated strategy to create a misleading impression? Or was it merely a marketing ploy?
- If it was a marketing decision, do a station’s marketing concerns outweigh their responsibility to accurately report the news?
- How do people stay informed if they can’t trust what they see and hear from news media?
- How much of a story can be omitted before becomes fake news? Or how much bias can be injected into a story before it becomes fake?
- How much responsibility does a news outlet bear to make news consumers aware that a story has been corrected or that they’ve published additional facts? (See what happened here.)
Our ability to come together as a unified people is directly tied to our ability to find common ground. When half the country is operating with one set of “facts” and the other half with another, that ability is profoundly hindered; we can’t find common ground if we don’t we share common facts.
There are plenty of things for which the President can legitimately be criticized, but people’s opinions of him should not be based on lies, partial truths and innuendo. Same with Congressional Republicans; God knows there have been many times I wanted to throttle the lot of them, but I want my criticisms to be based on fact, not fiction.
I don’t want to absolve the individual of the responsibility to stay informed, but I’m finding that it’s nearly a full-time job to sort out the real from the fake news. I’m retired so I have time for that, but what, for example, does a single mom do if she wants to stay informed? Cut out sleep altogether?
Conservatives have been trying to hold the news media accountable and demanding accurate reporting for years even if it means reporters and anchors have to do something completely crazy, like, you know, actually investigating rumors before tweeting them or repeating them on television. That’s not surprising because, frankly they’re the ones who usually come out on the short end of this situation. Now it’s time for fair-minded liberals to demand it too.