Monthly Archives: February 2017

When does a real news story become fake news?

2017-02-13Last 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.

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Filed under Journalism, News Media

Frenemies

chris-vanceIf you were following Washington State politics during the last election cycle, you may remember Chris Vance. He’s the former Washington State Republican Party Chairman who ran against Patty Murray for U.S. Senate. Despite a condescending video he recorded to open his campaign (which seems to have been scrubbed from the internet) in which he insulted the traditional GOP base, I voted for him based on the assumption that no one could be worse than Patty Murray.

I may have been wrong. Okay, maybe not, but I have questioned my vote in recent weeks.

While I share many positions with Vance on a variety of issues, mostly concerning national defense and the national debt, I’ve come to believe that he’s among the worst of politicians…the moderate Republican who’s still trying oh, so hard to be accepted by the cool kids where all the cool kids in the cafeteria are liberals. To put it another way, I once read that the difference between a pop star and a rock star is that the pop star wants to be beloved by fans and a rock star doesn’t give a damn. Vance is a pop star and the fans he’s courting aren’t conservative Republicans.

2017-02-08-14Vance’s post-election twitter feed is all Republican bashing all the time. I’m not exaggerating! Even when he offered a weak admonishment to the Democrats to confirm the Neil Gorsuch appointment to the Supreme Court, he included Republicans to soften the blow. As if there were anything the GOP could do to cause Democrats to be less obstructionist.

And if he’s not bashing Republicans, he’s attacking one of the foundations of the republic, the electoral college. He’d like to be able to vote to abolish it and he’s so passionate about it that he mentioned it twice on public radio in the space of a month.

Vance has also, predictably and very publicly, come out in opposition to President Trump’s immigration executive order. He’s so opposed, in fact, that he joined the protest in Seattle.

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Which is fine, of course. It’s his prerogative to spend his time and exercise his right to free speech in any way he wants. Which includes, I guess, joining the ACLU, also in response to the immigration order.

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Also his prerogative. I guess he doesn’t mind if they’ll use his membership fees to advance their leftist anti-voter ID, pro-affirmative action, anti-law enforcement agenda if it makes him feel good about his position on Trump’s executive order.

It doesn’t end with his Twitter account, either. He’s started a blog, “Wide Awake.” In his second post, he makes the assertion that the major threat to freedom today comes from the right. He cites the rise of Putin in Russia. I agree; Putin is a threat. Putin is a fascist, he says. Okay, sure, maybe he is. (I don’t agree that fascism is a right wing ideology, but that’s an argument for another day.)

But then he goes on to tie this back to U.S. politics. He implies that Trump and those who voted for him have fascist tendencies. (I disagree again; I believe that Trump, at least, is a populist, not a fascist.)

He brings up racism and Islamophobia and the demonization of immigrants. These are predictable straw men used against conservatives, but commonly by Democrat politicians and progressive activists (but I repeat myself), not by Republicans eating their own.

By now it’s probably obvious that Chris Vance isn’t my favorite Republican and you may be wondering why I’ve gone on this extended rant rather than just ignoring him. Let me ask you this. Would you choose to let cancer eat away at you from within if there were anything you could do to stop it?

Chris Vance is a cancer eating away at the Washington State Republican Party. His favorite pastime is bashing other Republicans, and he does so at a variety of left-leaning places who keep him around like a pet they can trot out when it suits their agenda. He undermines and weakens the GOP at a time when we should be working to unite the party in Washington. He may think his anti-republican position will curry favor with local voters, but I have to point out that Patty Murray posted the largest margin of victory of her political career over Vance.

Like his successor at the WSRP, Luke Esser, who now lobbies for the SEIU and makes contributions to Democrat politicians, Vance seems to be leaning ever closer to the dark side.

Which brings me to my final point.

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So, Chris, if this is the only thing holding you back, get over it and go. Please. You’re not helping the WSRP and your disdain of the conservative Republican base is palpable. Frankly, I’d be embarrassed if you claimed to be speaking for all Republicans and I cringe over your willingness to chastise. So just go already. The last thing we need is a frenemy like you.

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Filed under Patty Murray, Politics, Washington, WSRP