• Major Errors by Major Networks

    For anyone who cares about accurate reporting, the past week was truly disastrous.

    Since democracy depends on transparency and some measure of justified trust in our basic institutions, these journalistic failures are damaging to the country.

    The misreporting comes on top of well-documented sexual harassment and abuse allegations that led to Matt Lauer’s firing and raise questions about how much his bosses knew and covered up over the years. One, Andrew Lack, is still at NBC. The other, Jeff Zucker, runs CNN.

    We also heard Cokie Roberts, long-time reporter for ABC News, say on the air that female reporters knew not to get into elevators alone with some Congressmen and Senators. She didn’t seem to notice that neither she nor anyone else considered that worthy of investigating or reporting.

    As for last week’s errors, Glenn Greenwald cites chapter and verse here:

    The U.S. Media Suffered Its Most Humiliating Debacle in Ages: Now Refuses All Transparency Over What Happened (The Intercept)

    CNN also illustrates how these organizations offered only lame apologies for BIG errors:

    Misreporting the date, which both CNN and ABC did, was not a minor matter. It went to the heart of charges that candidate Trump worked with Russia and Russian-backed organizations to win the election. In fact, the accurate dates were after Trump was elected.

    Some people have attributed the errors to sloppy reporting, others to deliberate efforts (presumably by the leakers) to harm either Trump or the networks that reported.

    There is no doubt the reporting was sloppy, the retractions mealy-mouthed.

    But I have an additional observation, albeit purely speculative. First, note that the leaks came from classified settings, such as the House Intel Committee. Second, we know that the Department of Justice has established a high-priority task force to identify the sources of classified leaks. So, I speculate, could DOJ (working with US intel agencies) given specific people some documents seeded with misinformation to see if that identifiable info was leaked? If it was, then the source would be obvious to DOJ or the CIA.

    That technique is a familiar one. Intelligence agencies sometimes alter each document slightly for each individual recipient. That way, if some portion ends up in the newspaper, it might be possible to identify which recipient leaked it. I wonder if that’s what happened here? The fact that two sources confirmed CNN’s erroneous story makes me wonder if a Congressman or two received a deliberately altered document.

  • The Next Stage in the National Harassment Story? The Executives Who Knew and Did Nothing

    The latest episode, broken by New York Magazine’s The Cut, involves harassment allegations against now-retired NPR personality, John Hockenberry. (Link here)

    What happens next shows the Ghost of Christmas Future.

    There is outrage that Hockenberry’s employer did so little after being told of the initial allegations. She admits knowing of the allegations for months–and NPR contributors are not happy.

    Calls for public radio president Laura Walker to resign after ‘cowardly’ response to sex harassment claims–Fox News

    If, as I expect, the story expands from “who did it” to “who covered it up,” then a lot of executives will be in deep trouble.

    It’s one thing for Hollywood stars and producers to know about Harvey Weinstein and stay silent. That’s morally troubling, but, because they are not his employer, they don’t have an affirmative, legal obligations to act.

    That’s not true for, say, the executives at NBC who employed the immensely-profitable Matt Lauer. They had a responsibility to protect their other employees from his predations and to create a safe workplace. Instead, they allowed the installation of a “lock-the-door” button in his office so he could drop his pants.

    Who is in the line of here? The executives who worked most closely with Lauer over the years. High on that list are NBC’s Andrew Lack and Jeff Zucker, formerly at NBC, now at CNN.

     

  • More on receiving lots of news updates; ZipDialog and The Onion are on the same page

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    Yesterday, as news about the Charlottesville killing and rioting was breaking, I recommended taking a break from the incessant nattering of cable TV.

    The all-important ratio of agita/information is too high.

    Instead, get your news updates from websites like Associated Press or the cable channels’ own web sites. (ZipDialog post here.)

    The Onion has a related comment on the torrent of scary stories.

    As regular ZD readers know, I consider the Onion to be America’s Most Trusted News Source.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

  • Good News, Bad News about Americans’ Health and Mortality

    The data from the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) shows both good news (a steady decline in teenage pregnancies) and bad news (an alarming rise in opioid deaths).

    BAD NEWS: Heroin Deaths Surge, Surpassing Gun Deaths for first time in US

    Opioid abuse is rising rapidly and producing more and more deaths. It often begins with prescription meds and shifts to heroin, usually supplied by well-organized Mexican gangs, whose tentacles reach even into small Appalachian communities.

    CDC Director Tom Frieden explains the scale of the problem (White House press release)

    The epidemic of deaths involving opioids continues to worsen. Prescription opioid misuse and use of heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl are intertwined and deeply troubling problems. We need to drastically improve both the treatment of pain and the treatment of opioid use disorders and increase the use of naloxone to reverse opioid overdose. –CDC Director Tom Frieden

    Now, according to the CDC, the number of heroin deaths has topped those from guns.  Unfortunately, that’s because those from guns are going down.  For 2015, guns and heroin each caused almost 13,000 deaths.

    Kudos to the Washington Post, which composed these two troubling graphs from the latest CDC data.

    The first shows a four-fold increase in opioid deaths between 1999 and 2015.

    The second graph shows a steady rise in deaths from Oxycodone and other natural opioids, but an alarming spike in deaths from heroin and synthetic opioids.

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    GOOD NEWS: Teenage Births are down steadily, especially since 2007

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