“Fake News”? It Results From Publishing One-Source Stories

Earlier this year, Lara Logan, former Middle East correspondent for CBS News, summarized what is wrong with today’s news reporting. It used to be an accepted press convention that “you need at least two first hand sources” before a story is run she said. That convention has been thrown “out the window.”

No kidding! Hours after Jussie Smollett’s faked racist/homophobic attack in Chicago, the New York Times wrote “the attackers then began hitting Smollett in the face and poured an ‘unknown chemical substance’ on him” and “one of the attackers also wrapped a rope around Smollett’s neck before the duo fled.” The Times did not add “said Smollett” because underdogs and victims have instant credibility with the media.

This is far from the first time major media have run with a one-source story because it seemed to expose racism and bigotry. Who can forget how quickly media reported that students at a March for Life event in Washington, D.C. in January taunted a Native American only later admitting they were actually peacemakers trying to ease tensions emanating from Black Hebrew Israelites who were also present. This was actually a “no source” story gleaned from a video!

fake news
Fake News. Photo by john-i at pixabay

Fake News – Believing Only Victims

The poster child for one-source news was “A Rape on Campus,” published by Rolling Stone in November 2014 that turned out to be a completely fabrication. The source, “Jackie” invented the whole story – sliming both the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and the University of Virginia. Neither the author, Sabrina Erdely, who had written for The New Yorker and Mother Jones or Rolling Stone editors checked out the story, so enamored are they with “victims.”

The “A Rape on Campus” hoax was reminiscent of the glowing reviews “Love and Consequences,” a book published by Riverhead Books in 2008, elicited even though the author’s whole story – being a foster child in gang-infested South-Central Los Angeles – was a lie. Not only did book critics at major media fall for the ruse – never checking out the author’s story – her book editor, Sarah McGrath and literary agent, Faye Bender, did not check out her story either! When someone is a “victim,” you only need one source – their word.

No Source “News”

Often media perpetrators of one (or no) source news escape punishment even though they have misled millions and sometimes changed the entire national dialogue. Did anything happen, for example, to Buzzfeed and its reporters Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier when its article “President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen to Lie About the Moscow Tower Project,” was so false it was contradicted by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office itself?

“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate,” said Mueller spokesman Peter Carr.

“BuzzFeed News stands by this story 100%,” said Buzzfeed. The work of the reporters who wrote the story “has been proven to be true at every turn.” Not!

Did anything happen to the news outlets reporting that Justice Kavanaugh attended parties where girls were drugged and raped? Did anyone check out that source?

If nothing happens to news outlets that report unproven stories about “victims,” secure in the knowledge there will be no punishments and they can readily retract the erroneous stories, what is the deterrent from publishing more? Clearly there isn’t and we can expect more rumor and innuendo presented as news.

Kathy Sheridan
Kathy Sheridan is an old-style independent investigative journalist who covers a wide range of issues, taking some of the wild heat out of what partisans say to make their point. She uses in-depth research combined with common sense, a healthy dose of skepticism and critical thinking to get to the heart of an issue, to inform readers.