Accuracy in Media


NBC’s Chuck Todd accused Attorney General William Barr of a “factless conspiracy theory” when the attorney general said that the Trump campaign had been surveilled — or spied on — by the FBI.

The Wall Street Journal’s Holman W. Jenkins explains the problem with Todd’s logic: “A synonym for spying is ‘foreign intelligence surveillance’—the name of the court to which the FBI appealed four times to spy on a Trump campaign associate. This is a fact. Mr. Barr did not say such spying was unwarranted. A conspiracy theory is what MSNBC promoted on its air for two years with the Trump collusion story.

“What exactly is wrong with Mr. Todd’s brain? He confuses two basic categories: good/bad and true/false. He believes he’s speaking in the journalistic language of true/false, but he really means: While it may be false that Trump colluded with Russia, this is a pro-Trump talking point so it’s bad to dwell on it. And while it may be true the FBI spied on the Trump campaign, this is also a pro-Trump talking point so it’s good not to acknowledge it.”

Jenkins condemns the “Trump derangement syndrome” in the mainstream media, which drives clicks and viewers at the expense of the truth and sound reasoning.

“Judgment is teachable,” Jenkins said.

“Long ago, in relation to the Enron debacle, I pointed to the work of Harvard’s Max Bazerman and Northwestern’s David Messick, who theorized how systematic reasoning errors can lead to unethical business judgments. Journalists, don’t lie to yourselves: Their advice applies to your work too. Our industry needs to grow up by starting to police its reasoning as rigorously as it does its facts. Unfortunately, many who are employed today, when you come down to it, wouldn’t really have much to say if not armed with the trope du jour. We hire the wrong people. This problem is only getting worse at places like the New York Times and Washington Post due to the kind of ‘advance the narrative, ring up the clicks’ journalism that prevails in the marketplace today.”




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