Mainstream media outlets have devoted a great deal of energy and resources to fact-checking President Donald Trump since he took office in January 2016, but one journalist has compiled a long list of instances that media have gotten it wrong in their zeal to diminish Trump or his administration.
On her website, Sinclair television host Sharyl Attkisson compiled "50 Media Mistakes in the Trump Era," in what she calls a definitive list. Attkisson has worked for CNN and CBS as a correspondent and an anchor at different times over the last 25 years.
"Politicians are often fact-challenged," Attkisson wrote in her post. "But for us in the media— our whole business is in facts. And we’ve played too fast and loose with our own."
What are examples of inaccurate coverage?
Attkisson's list of the media's errors in Trump coverage includes anonymously sourced stories that proved false, quotes taken outside of their full context, and blatantly incorrect information.
For example, when Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were scheduled to speak at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Dallas in April, numerous outlets jumped on the fact that guns were not allowed at the event, claiming the NRA was hypocritically enforcing a gun-free zone at its own meeting. In reality, the gun ban was required by the Secret Service.
In May, in the midst of a heated debate about the treatment of illegal immigrants who are detained, journalists from the New York Times and CNN shared photos of caged immigrant children as if they were the result of Trump administration policies. However, the photos were actually from 2014, during former President Barack Obama's administration.
Attkisson also cited the report early in Trump's term that he had removed a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office. Zeke Miller of Time was the first to report that, but it turns out he simply couldn't see the bust because it was allegedly "obscured by an agent and the door."
This writer's perspective
Formally trained and educated journalists are taught to check their bias at the door before they begin to report a story. To the best of their ability, a reporter must put aside his or her opinions and research and observe the facts of a situation.
The worst thing a reporter can do is decide on a narrative and then seek evidence that fits within that narrative. That will only lead the reporter to miss or ignore any facts that contradict it.
This list of journalistic errors shows what can happen when reporters eagerly seek confirmation of their opinions rather than objective truth.
If you want Trump to be racist, you might be quick to tweet out that a bust of MLK has been removed without looking more carefully or asking someone about it. If you want Trump to be the source of all of America's immigration problems, then you will assume that a photo of detained immigrant children must have been taken during his administration, and not the previous one.
Many journalists now decry the perceived war on media that Trump is waging. But the first thing they all need to do if they want that war to end is to stop giving him ammunition.