CNN officials don’t need me to take up the cudgel for them, but I’ll do so anyway.
The news outlet has just done something quite rare in journalism. It has retracted a story it broadcast. There was no mere “correction” or “clarification.” CNN took it all back. Moreover, the principals involved in the bogus story have resigned; they well likely would have been fired by the network.
I mention this because of the Twitter tirade that Donald John Trump has launched against the network. The president calls CNN “fake news”; he says the network’s ratings are plummeting; he is castigating CNN for the story that was broadcast.
The president is an angry man! Then again, he’s always angry when the media are involved. Am I right?
The CNN story alleged that a close Trump ally was tied to a Russian investment fund that the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee is investigating. The story is false. CNN admitted its mistake, took it off its website, accepted the resignations of the reporter, editor and producer involved in the story.
My experience in journalism — which totaled nearly four decades — tells me that CNN acted responsibly in reaction to the mistake it made. Do I know whether the story was published with a willful intent to do harm to the president? No I don’t.
I do know, though, that for a media organization to retract a story means that it has acknowledged an egregious error. And, yes, by golly, journalists — those fallible human beings — do make mistakes.
That won’t stop conservatives, though, from unloading on the “mainstream media,” a term that has become a four-letter word among those who detest the media.
The simple truth, though, is that CNN acted responsibly and with integrity in taking back a report it learned to be untrue.
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