Skip to comments.Richard Jewell and Badly Flawed News
Posted on 12/11/2019 5:26:07 AM PST by Kaslin
Over the last few years, journalists have responded to accusations of "fake news" with arrogant proclamations that they are the misunderstood Guardians of Truth and Providers of Fact. But not every news story is a perfectly baked slice of Facts or Truth. Sometimes reporters merely recount what they heard but what they were told was wrong.
We should all cringe whenever we hear the two words "breaking news." Time and again, news breaks out but the details are anyone's guess -- literally. "(ABC/NBC/CBS/CNN/Fox) hasn't confirmed this, but others are reporting ...," they say, and then they proceed to repeat rumors and speculation that are not just underbaked but raw. If true, you may be No. 1 with the scoop, which is all important. If false, the blame goes to that unnamed "other" news outlet. The two-source rule doesn't exist. In the Year of the Whistleblower, we've learned a single source isn't necessary either. You just need someone to speculate; that's good enough.
Clint Eastwood has made a new movie about Richard Jewell, the security guard for AT&T who was working at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta on July 27, the day of the domestic terrorist attack. He heroically identified a suspicious backpack in Centennial Olympic Park and helped clear the area before the bomb inside it exploded. Only one person was killed by the explosion. But in the heat of the 24-hour news cycle that followed, Jewell was fingered by the FBI -- and then by the media -- as the suspect.
Before the Eastwood movie's debut, The Washington Post published an op-ed by Henry Schuster, a producer at "60 Minutes" who worked for CNN in 1996. It is headlined "I Helped Make Richard Jewell Famous -- and Ruined His Life in the Process."
He tells the story. On July 30, 1996, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper ran with a special edition reporting that Jewell was the suspect, under the headline "FBI Suspects 'Hero' Guard May Have Planted Bomb." Rather than take the time to investigate the FBI's suspicion, CNN accepted it and simply read from the paper on the air. Schuster's op-ed now nails it: "We in the media got it wrong, even though our reporting was right. There's the paradox: Jewell really was the FBI's main suspect." But he had been a hero, no quote marks required.
Schuster lamented: "By the next day, Jewell was notorious worldwide. (Now, with social media, a reputation can be destroyed in nanoseconds.)" He regretted never saying he was sorry to Jewell before he died in 2007 but concluded, "It's never too late to apologize."
What is of note is not just Schuster's correction but his humility.
In today's acrid atmosphere, it's a virtue in short supply.
The news media and President Donald Trump are at war. The president has had the upper hand, and the press is hunkered down in a defensive bubble, lobbing hand grenades. The nation's most prestigious newspapers have abolished their ombudsmen -- The Washington Post in 2013 and The New York Times in 2017. There's no one there internally to hold them to account publicly. The supposed news-in-review show "Reliable Sources" on CNN now spends most of its time attacking Trump for attacking the media, rather than evaluating the performance of the press.
The broadcast networks are no different. For decades now, they have arrogantly avoided corrections on air, unless someone's lawyer has forced it as part of a settlement. NBC News paid a large settlement to Jewell in 1996, since Tom Brokaw wildly speculated on national television that Jewell was guilty. "They probably have enough to arrest him right now, probably enough to prosecute him, but you always want to have enough to convict him as well," he said.
Jewell said he and his mother watched it with heartbreak as it happened. But Brokaw didn't apologize. He said he was merely repeating the words of high-level government officials in Atlanta and Washington. It was someone else's fault.
Schuster's op-ed is a blast of fresh air -- for both sides of the grand divide.
There is a reason why America’s intellectual and moral giants do not become journalists.
This is the heart of it. The media, I think, is basically Deep State. The media says what the government tells them to say. There is hardly any real journalism. There is mostly propaganda.
Tom Brokaw is a big weirdo.
I think it’s the other way around. The deep state is one apparatus, but the media arm is what sets the agenda for the politicians. The media is more constant in its position, and truly more powerful because they are unelected and do not answer to a vote. We the people have very little influence on what the media does, they are not accountable to us. They rarely face any serious consequences, only sometimes losing their job, which is peanuts compared to the harm they inflict on everyone else.
“We the people have very little influence on what the media does”
That kind of attitude always presents ‘little influence’ because there is no act. Trump’s approval rating is over 50%, so how is the media making money if they’re losing Trump subscribers? I address the online version of our local ‘press’ by commenting on the fake news with facts of why it is fake. And the articles get pulled. What would happen if every Trump supporter canceled their subscriptions to the media for the month of January?
There are going to be some people who have a real problem with this movie. It is a must see.
I wonder if a question will be answered in this movie...
... who actually DID plant the bomb there and why.
just my $0.02
The ‘News’ today isn’t funded by viewership. CNN is proof of this. They are most often loss leaders of a large conglomerate of corporate sponsorships. Unsubscribing from a news outlet might put your local town newspaper out of business, but you have zero effect on the NYT or Washington Post. Amazon can keep the Post alive indefinitely for example.
The bomber, who was finally captured was Eric Robert Rudolph. He was convicted of placing the 40-pound bomb, filled with nails and screws, in Centennial Olympic Park.
Eric Robert Rudolph. I thought he was the Abortion Clinic bomber?
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