Where Do We Go When Journalism Fails Us?

This election cycle is another reminder that local journalists who know their states tend to be more reliable.

This election should remind us how vital and necessary local journalism is to factual reporting. National media outlets routinely fell for stories about topics outside their knowledge base specially crafted by political operates wanting to shape narratives about campaigns.

All one need do is look at Georgia where its Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, won a closely watched Governor’s race against progressive darling Stacey Abrams. National reporters breathlessly reported stories about Kemp engaging in campaign shenanigans to such an extent that progressives are convinced he stole the race. What is most interesting is Georgia reporters never covered the stories or covered them with such a command of the facts that the national implications were shown to be partisan spin.

In South Georgia, national reporters covered the tale of Kemp trying to close black voting precincts in a county, forcing black voters to drive or walk many miles to predominantly white polling locations. The truth? The Democratic county commissioners and Democrat controlled local board of elections hired a consultant to review polling locations for compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. The consultant recommended consolidating several locations deemed unfriendly to handicapped voters. The locations were all the Republican precincts that went for Donald Trump. The Democrat majority precincts were not touched.

The Associated Press reported the story of a woman who was denied voter registration because of Georgia’s “exact match” law that requires a voter exactly match their voter registration form to the information on their driver’s license. This voter had a hyphenated last name and she was denied voter registration because she failed to include the hyphen. The truth? She was actually denied voter registration because she had already registered to vote and the computer system flagged her new registration as a duplicate. The Associated Press never corrected the story.

53,000 voters had their voter registration paperwork held up as “pending voters” according to the same Associated Press story. They claim it overwhelmingly impacted minority voters. The truth? There was a surge of minority voter registrations so they were disproportionately affected. But the underlying data tells a different story. Seventy-five percent of the pending voters were placed there because they put down bad social security numbers. Twenty-three percent were actually on the list from the 2014 election and had been submitted by the 2018 Democratic candidate’s own voter registration efforts from 2014. In four years, despite notice from the Secretary of State to the voters that they needed to fix their information, none of those voters ever showed up to fix the information or tried to vote.

National media outlets also reported the Georgia Secretary of State had thrown voters off the election rolls this year. The truth? The Secretary of State is prohibited from removing people from voting rolls in election years. Local elections officials do remove people from the rolls during election years, but only if the voter dies, is convicted of a felony, or is deemed incompetent by a court.

Finally, for the past two months, national outlets have run stories suggesting Kemp has a conflict of interest because he runs Georgia’s elections and is on the ballot. The truth? The Secretary of State runs for office and is on the ballot every four years. No one complained till now. But what about the merits of the allegations?

In Georgia, local boards of election control elections, not the Secretary of State. All the election year complaints about voting equipment, long lines, voters denied the right to vote, etc. are all local issues. The Secretary of State only gets involved once an election is concluded when he becomes the chairman of the state’s election board. Kemp resigned two days after the election to avoid the conflict of interest.

Local media in Georgia got these stories right while national outlets flubbed them. They distorted the facts and got basic facts wrong. The national reporters wanted to build narrative arches with protagonists and villains instead of just giving people the facts. As local news outlets rely more and more on national reporters or fade away, more stories like these will be reported and even more people will distrust the press.

Comments
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Dave_Oedel
Dave_Oedel

Right, there's plenty of spin in the national press. There's also spin of other sorts in the local press. The multiplicity of voices is the gift of the First Amendment, building on the Thomas Paine pamphleteers of the founding era -- including Ben Franklin. Incidentally, it's a bit amusing that Paine was perhaps the first proponent in the US of a guaranteed minimum income. Paine, the revolutionary. Paine, the socialist. We don't need to pigeon-hole people or ideas. Just read, listen and think for yourself, issue by issue. The age of the internet and blogs like this are a testament to the power of independent thinking and speech. Resurgent. Good word. Good ideas will find their voice in the US. And the bad ideas will be exposed.

Lilburn
Lilburn

30 % of the population of Georgia is Black and growing. The percentages in Metro Atlanta are even higher. I’ve been doing business in Atlanta for almost 30 years, I’m a proud Graduate of the University of Georgia, and I can say with 100% clear-eyed hearfelt sincerity that Georgia is the least Racist State in the country. It would be impossible for a Racist to do business in Atlanta, or Georgia for that matter. Are there still some Racists running around? Of course there are-both White and Black- but they have less relevance each year. The White Racists would already be irrelevant if the press didn’t give them a voice. What’s left of these idiots? 50 guys squeezed into 5 pickup trucks flying Rebel Flags rolling into Stone Mountain once a year. The Black Racists need the White Racists to have someone to rail about. It’s a sick symbiotic relationship. The truth of the matter is that Stacy Abrams is a bad candidate because she has Socialist tendencies. Her only appeal is that she happens to be Black.

forbiddenview
forbiddenview

All of these fake stories are part of the democrats playbook to make Republicans look evil. President Trump has led the way to exposing the democrat media and the democrat operatives who continually flood the airwaves and papers with cheating accusations against Republicans. Their game has been exposed, their credibility now hangs in the balance.

heimdall
heimdall

i do not believe these were mistakes, the actual facts do not fit the narrative, so even if accidentally located they are obviously not worthy of being revealed to the victims [watchers]

DavidMKern
DavidMKern

Although it is perfectly appropriate for anybody to disagree with any/all of the political policies of Donald Trump, and his blunt mannerism in dealing with an antagonist media turn many people off, Trump’s persistent declaration that “Fake News is the enemy of the people” does have merit. As Erick’s post points out, “Fake News” not only impacts Trump, it also impacts people/issues that have nothing to do with any negative characteristics of Trump.

The concept that an “independent news media” has ever existed is more of an illusion than a reality. Competing newspapers with polar opposite editorials existed in major cities long before the advent of today’s electronic media. When questioning Jesus, Pilate responded to his statement with “What is truth?”– John 18:37-38. Newspaper editors, politicians, and trial lawyers have always differed about what the truth exactly is, and very few people embrace aspects of the truth that they don’t find appealing.

It is in general bad practice to make generalizations, but I suspect many media stories (or Internet posts) deliberately leave out truthful evidence that doesn’t support their viewpoint, just like Obama didn’t really believe “people could keep their health plan if they wanted to,” or Democratic Senators really thought Kavanaugh was guilty of teenage gang rape, or Bill Clinton really thought that people were confused about the meaning of “is.”

Consequently, our country ends up having divisive arguments over the silliest of issues. The recent flak over the contentious press conference is one example, as reporters are accusing the WH of issuing fake video of CNN’s Acosta that showed his left hand made incidental contact with the interns arm. I think any fair person who watches the video can see that Acosta wasn’t willing to yield the microphone in his right hand and he reflexively used his left hand to keep the intern from taking it away from him (similar to a non-intentional football stiff-arm)

If you want to watch the entire Acosta sequence with Trump, it is available at this link (see 3 minutes segment from about 1 to 4 minutes)

As with any news story, it is good practice to not take other peoples word for what the truth is. Nobody is without bias and people in the media are no exception.