MINOT, N.D. — If you complain about "the media" to someone who works in local or regional journalism, you're likely to elicit some eye rolls.
The "media" are not monolithic, they'll probably tell you. It's not fair to lump them in with the New York Times or the baying jackals who populate cable news.
It's not fair.
Despite popular rhetoric, there is a big difference between the people who bring your local headlines and the people who produce them on the national stage.
Still, there's a reason why so many in the public tend to view the news media as a monolith, and it's because local media outlets aren't doing much to help draw a distinction.
If you haven't been following along, the Post reported in January that Trump had called a Georgia election official and told her to "find the fraud" and that she could become a "national hero" if she did.
The call's audio has now emerged, and it turns out Trump didn't say those words. “Trump did not tell the investigator to ‘find the fraud’ or say she would be ‘a national hero’ if she did so. Instead, Trump urged the investigator to scrutinize ballots in Fulton County, Ga., asserting she would find ‘dishonesty’ there. He also told her that she had ‘the most important job in the country right now,’” the Post wrote in a correction.
Other national media outlets that used the erroneous quotes, claiming they had independently verified them, also issued corrections.
Trump's loyalists are now crowing about vindication, though no such thing is true. That Trump made this call at all was an abuse of the power of the presidency. Still, the fact that this story was handled so sloppily by a national press corps that has always been in a hurry to get Trump undermines, severely, not just the impact of the original story but the integrity of the news media as a whole.
This was hardly a unique occurrence during the Trump era. CNN saw three journalists resign over a retracted story claiming that the Senate Intelligence Committee was investigating a Russian financier with ties to the Trump transition team.
The New York Times had to correct a story that claimed that all 17 American intelligence agencies had affirmed that Russia orchestrated hacking attacks against the U.S. when, in reality, 13 of them did not reach that conclusion.
Buzzfeed reported that "President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow," prompting Robert Muelller, the special counsel for the Department of Justice who oversaw the Russian collusion investigation, to dispute the claim. Buzzfeed continues to claim that they have documentation backing up their story, but they refuse to make it public.
MSNBC retracted a story claiming that Russian oligarchs had co-signed on loans made to Trump.
I could keep going, but I think I've made my point.
People have been losing faith in journalists for a long time, and stuff like this is why.
Which brings us back to the point of this column.
Local journalists - local reporters and editors and publishers who are tired of being lumped in with "the media" by a public that is, not unreasonably, feeling fed up - should speak out about what the Post did.
There are local angles to cover when it comes to these failures of journalism. There are editorials to be written.
Speaking out would go a long way toward rebuilding trust between the audience for journalism and the local journalists who serve them. It would also help break down the perception of a news media monolith.
Journalists, and in particular journalists who work for influential national outlets like the Post or The New York Times, wield a huge amount of power. They've also demonstrated, consistently, that they're not very good at holding themselves accountable in meaningful ways.
That's something local news outlets across the nation could do, and it would be a salve for a nation that is desperately trying to find someone to trust.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.