Lanny Davis admits he was the source of the story about Michael Cohen’s knowledge of Donald Trump concerning his son's meeting with the Russian lawyer. He also revealed that he was not truthful.
CNN was the source of the blockbuster story and all the major media ran with it. They trusted the accuracy of the statement by CNN. When the mainstream media realized the story was false, in fact, an untruth, almost everyone in the mainstream media, with considerable embarrassment, retracted the story, except CNN. The network that broke the story refused to retract its false story; further damaging what little reputation they had left.
During the Trump presidency, we have seen so many examples of the mainstream media rushing to report a story without verifying the facts. The initial accuracy is seriously in question with the Lanny Davis story, especially with the media pulling the story back later. I think it is fair to say, at least in my lifetime, that I have never seen a time when so many non-verified stories are released attacking the president, but later being retracted. I am not a reporter; I write commentary, but many times I feel like I do more research than most of the reporters breaking the news.
With that, I decided to do some research and see if most reporters follow any code of conduct or ethics that governs their behavior. Sure enough, I found the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics.
For this commentary, I will focus on just a few parts of the Code. You can make your own decision as to whether the media passed or failed in each section.
This SPJ code has four sections: Seek Truth and Report It, Minimize Harm, Act Independently, and Be Accountable and Transparent.
Seek Truth and Report It
Let us ask a question about this section: did the media report in a manner that showed there was a presumption of innocence when reporting about Russian collusion and President Trump? Did they diligently seek the subjects of the news coverage to allow them to respond to the criticism or allegations of wrongdoing against them? Pass or Fail?
Did the media balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort to the individual being reported on? The pursuit of news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness. In the case of the CNN story, the purpose of the story was to harm the reputation of President Trump. The Washington Times reports that 93 percent of CNN coverage is negative against President Trump. Has CNN minimized harm to the President? Pass or fail?
Did the media refuse gifts, favors, free travel, and/or special treatment and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility? The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General noted that “dozens” of FBI agents had contact with the news media, and many were taking sports tickets, golf outings, and other gifts from reporters to whom they were leaking unauthorized information about a criminal investigation. If reporters are bribing people from the FBI and Justice to get inside information, this may have compromised their independence. Pass or fail?
Be Accountable and Transparent
Did the media explain ethical choices and processes to audiences, or did they encourage a civil dialogue with the public about journalistic practices, coverage, and content?
Debate.org posted a story that asked the question whether the media could be trusted to tell the truth. It was reported that 85 percent of the people responding to the poll answered no.
In the case of the Lanny Davis story, almost all the news organizations that took the feed from CNN walked the story back. CNN, in the face of the recanting by Davis, stood by the story.
Given the activity of the major media in reporting on President Trump, the major media across the board failed at living up to their own standards of ethical behavior. According to data from the latest Harvard-Harris poll, which was provided exclusively to The Hill, 65 percent of voters believe there is a lot of fake news in the mainstream media.
I hope that someday a generation of journalists will look at this code of ethics and bring about a change that will allow the American people to start believing in the media again.
Dan Perkins is an author of both thrillers and children’s books. He appears on over 1,100 radio stations. Mr. Perkins appears regularly on international TV talk shows, he is current events commentator for seven blogs, and a philanthropist with his foundation for American veterans, Songs and Stories for Soldiers, Inc. More information about him, his writings, and other works are available on his website, DanPerkins.guru. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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