Major media outlets in recent weeks have been struggling under a flood of major reporting failures, scrambling to address significant lapses in reporting as nationwide trust in media reaches record lows.
The Washington Post this week revealed that it had significantly misreported a story in which then-President Donald Trump was alleged to have called one of Georgia’s top elections investigators and urged that official to “find the fraud” in the state’s election data. The Post, which had relied on anonymous sourcing to verify the claim, said that a review of an audio file of the call discovered this month revealed that Trump had never uttered those words.
Those allegations were explosive at the time they were reported, even finding their way into the impeachment trial memorandum of Senate Democrats. The Post in its correction indicated that its reporter has not listened to the recording prior to reporting on it, instead relying on “information provided by a source” to bolster the allegations in the report.
Other media outlets picked up on the allegation as well, including CNN, which after the discovery of the recording quietly updated its own report on the alleged scandal. But its 10.5-font-sized “Editor’s Note” did not specify the errors from the earlier report, instead linking readers to a report on the recently discovered recording that itself did not identify the error from the network’s original article.
The New York Times has been involved in several corrections, some big like the elaborate hoax played on its Caliphate podcast and others small but still affecting reputations on Twitter. Last month, for instance, Times technology reporter Taylor Lorenz had to be corrected when she tweeted an allegation that tech entrepreneur Marc Andreessen had used “the r-slur” during a forum, only to have one of the forum’s moderators deny it happened. Lorenz then tweeted back: “Thanks for clarifying.”
The Capitol riot on Jan. 6 resulted in more journalism malpractice, so much so that award-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote an entire essay about “false and exaggerated” media claims he had uncovered. “False reporting is never justified, especially to inflate threat and fear levels,” he declared.