Are you watching the snit-fight between the president of the United States and the cable news powerhouse CNN? It’s a beaut.
Donald Trump called CNN the proprietor of fake news and CNN said the president is a big, fat liar. It has reached a point in which CNN now adds the words “without proof” to about everything the president asserts.
Case in point: Trump tweets the bombshell that he believes that President Obama wiretapped him during the 2016 campaign.
CNN said he tweeted it “without proof”. Of course, CNN can’t know the voracity of the president’s tweet and it has not bothered to do the journalism required to prove it … or shoot it down. Yet, CNN bosses feel comfortable in casting doubt on the assertion.
The point is CNN enters dark territory in creating this odd new standard of reporting in which a parenthetical comment “without proof” substitutes for journalism (which is a bad thing, if you will excuse the parenthetical comment.)
Look, all politicians – yes, even beloved presidents — deceive the public from time to time. Call it what you like – spin, lie, whatever – good reporters know this and they fight through the fog daily. Simply calling “BS” without doing the work is a dangerous shortcut.
If the president lies, then by all means dig deeper and report the truth. Think Woodward and Bernstein. When they broke open the Watergate scandal, did they do it by copying down statements from the White House and adding “without proof” at the end?
They reported the government line, and then worked like hell to expose the cover-up.
Journalism is hard. Do the work. I get CNN hates the president for calling out its alleged bias. I’d be upset, too. But the best revenge is stellar reporting, not juvenile editorial comments slapped on the end of news stories.
Plus, it’s not a sustainable approach to reporting the news. Can you imagine what that would look like had it been applied to presidents past? Here’s a sample:
“Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind” – President John F. Kennedy said (without proof).
“Every gun that is made signifies a theft from those who hunger” – President Eisenhower said (without proof).
“A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” – President Roosevelt said (without proof).
“If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” – President Obama said (and CNN bought it hook, line and sinker).
(Sherman Frederick is a longtime Nevada newsman, member of the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame and founder of Battle Born Media. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)