The RTDNA Voice of the First Amendment Task Force today commended NBC News’ Chuck Todd who, on Wednesday’s MSNBC program MTP Daily, delivered a full-throated commentary on the battle being waged daily by the current White House against responsible journalism.
During the “I’m Obsessed With…” segment of his daily show, Todd noted – quite correctly – that responsible journalists act quickly and decisively to correct their errors, while the Trump administration routinely dishes out falsehoods to wage war on the credibility of reporters and other members of news organizations who are merely fulfilling their Constitutionally-guaranteed duty to seek and relay the truth to the public.
Let's be clear about this, that war is nothing less than a war on the truth. Do we get it right all the time? Nope, we don't. And when we don't, we run a correction and in some cases people lose their jobs. That's what just happened at CNN. CNN took responsibility for its mistakes. You know, at this network we've done it quite a few times publicly, as well. But [that's] because we try to get it right. We take what we do seriously, because trust -- viewers and readers' trust -- is all we have, and without that, we're nothing. And guess what, we all know we get fired for not telling the truth. And of course that's the point, isn't it? Of course the White House attacks -- delegitimize the media to create running room for its own events. It's as old as the media itself. The White House is not above using anonymous sources to criticize the use of anonymous sources. Nor to promote what even it admits could be a lie, to call others liars.Todd then showed a segment of Tuesday’s White House daily press briefing in which Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders urged Americans to watch a video she wasn’t sure was “accurate or not” to see evidence of news organizations’ supposed deliberate attempt to report “fake news” about the President and his administration. On Wednesday, RTDNA asserted that Sanders had “crossed an ethical line” by promoting that video.
Todd’s reference to CNN’s mistakes related to an online story that CNN retracted last week, which alleged an illicit connection between the head of the Export-Import Bank and a Russian investment firm. Not only did CNN remove the story from its website, it apologized to the subject of the story and to its readers. Three CNN employees then resigned.
The RTDNA Code of Ethics states, in part, "Ethical journalism requires owning errors, correcting them promptly and giving corrections as much prominence as the error itself had. ... Journalism accepts responsibility, articulates its reasons and opens its processes to public scrutiny."
“Based on what we know about CNN’s handling of the Russia story last week, we believe the network acted promptly and responsibly once its accuracy came into question,” said Dan Shelley, RTDNA Incoming Executive Director, who spearheads the task force. “That’s what responsible journalists and news organizations do. They correct their errors and take responsibility for their mistakes. Unfortunately, as Chuck Todd pointed out, this White House does not do the same.”
In fact, a POLITICO report today says many White House officials feel emboldened by the CNN retraction: “As he escalates his attacks on the ‘failing media,’ Trump and his allies are increasingly convinced that recent evidence, including the retracted CNN piece on an aspect of the Russia investigations, will prove to skeptical voters that the mainstream media has a vendetta against the administration.”
“The ‘mainstream media’ does not have a ‘vendetta against the administration’,” Shelley said. “RTDNA has a long record of speaking out against administrations and other public officials of all ideological persuasions and political parties whenever they attempt to obstruct responsible journalists’ endeavor to serve the public.”
RTDNA formed the Voice of the First Amendment Task Force to defend against threats to the First Amendment and news media access, and to help the public better understand why responsible journalism is essential to their daily lives. People wishing to support RTDNA’s efforts may reach out to the task force by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.