Trump Is Gone, But The Media’s Fight Against Misinformation Is Still Here

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Inside a room in the Cannon House Office Building on Tuesday, witnesses testified to their experiences when an armed mob instigated by President Donald J. Trump entered the Capitol on January 6. Finally, he reached the Senate chamber, where senators confirmed Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory under Vice President Mike Pence’s gavel. they said they wanted to hang.

But outside the room, prominent Republicans painted a very different, significantly misleading picture of that day.

Tuesday morning, New York Representative Elise Stefanik Falsely accused Nancy PelosiFor the breach, he ignored evidence that the security of the Capitol could be compromised in favor of his own “partisan political stance,” the House spokesman said.

Last month, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, a leading supplier of GOP misinformationdownplayed the attack, with the false claim made by the rebels. stuck “within the rope lines” Inside the Capitol.

And this month, Mr. Trump falsely suggested that law enforcement officers were the only ones with firearms, and “The doors are open,” he said.

The truth in American life is now debatable. While this profoundly impacted country politics and more, it presented unique challenges for one group in particular: journalists.

After all, high-profile Republicans hiding the events of January 6 are undeniably newsworthy. Ms. Stefanik is the third-ranked House Republican; Mr. Johnson may seek reelection in a crucial Senate race; Polls show that if Mr. Trump seeks the Republican presidential nomination within three years, he will run at the forefront.

His political influences would normally demand coverage. Yet journalists are never afraid to publish something they know is wrong. Social media has also increased the risks of posting misleading statements, even on the news delivery service. If a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth puts on its pants, then perhaps the act of printing a lie and refuting it in the next sentence is just the beginning of the falsehood.

Mainstream media tried to rectify this circle by contextualizing problematic quotes and claims. But doing this well is difficult, and it can be impossible to strike just the right balance.

“I don’t think the answer is to ignore them,” said Bill Grueskin, a professor at the Columbia School of Journalism and a former senior editor of The Wall Street Journal, of top Republicans who say misleading things. An extreme part of the Republican Party – a significant number of Republican voters believe the Democrats are responsible for the uprising and have somehow convinced themselves that Trump is not guilty.

Dafna Linzer, who until recently was the editor-in-chief of politics for NBC News and MSNBC, said that during Mr Trump’s presidency, the news media became more comfortable with detecting lies directly.

“Our society has spent the last four years challenging when it comes to truth and reality in a way we haven’t been in a long time,” he said. “It’s been a long way to get to a place where some news organizations feel comfortable lying to a lie.”

In Cleveland, The Plain Dealer and its website have been experimenting with an alternative tactic over the past few months. When his reporters and editors determine he’s a notable politician—be it Ohio Republican Senate nominee Josh Mandel; Dennis Kucinich, the Democratic candidate for mayor of Cleveland; or Mr Trump – he said something wrong and it was primarily designed for propaganda purposes, they don’t even publish it in a way that refutes it.

For example, a dispatch At a Trump rally outside of Cleveland last month, no reference was made to the former president’s baseless allegations about the 2020 election. outputs made Mention (while explaining that they are false or unfounded).

Chris Quinn, editor of The Plain Dealer, announced the new policy In March: “We do not knowingly publish absurd and stupid claims.”

Mr. Quinn came to this decision after he realized that Mr. Trump, while not the first politician to distort or mislead, had changed an incentive structure for politicians interacting with the news media, which had previously deterred fraud.

He said in an interview today, “What Donald Trump is doing has created a lot of impersonators where the truth doesn’t matter and they don’t care.”

“We all have best practices,” he added from news outlets, and “used it to spread wrongs left and right.”

Now, Mr. Quinn urges his reporters to seek context. A reporter offered an example from this month. closed A forum where Republican Senate candidate JD Vance repeatedly referred to illegal immigration as “dirty”. The reporter provided an analysis of how Mr. Vance had transformed from being someone to condemn such language in a few years.

“Four years ago,” said Mr. Quinn, describing his newspaper’s own evolution, “we would have a story: ‘JD Vance came to Cleveland, he called immigrants “dirty.”

This approach has its drawbacks, including opening the newspaper to allegations of partisan bias. But for many industry leaders, the days of “she said, she said” without the weight of a journalist’s judgment are long gone.

Joan Donovan, research director of the Shorenstein Center at Harvard, has advocated a strategy called “strategic silence”, which urges news organizations not to give platforms to certain ideas. But while that might make sense for a fringe white supremacist group, he said in an interview that a different stance was necessary with prominent politicians. He suggested uncovering the reasons behind politicians’ false narratives.

“Some journalists don’t like to dwell on what could be called conjecture,” he said, “but you have to help the audience understand and find these lies in the context of the present moment, which is a struggle. A description of what happened on January 6 and what is to blame.”


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