Journalism after the Mueller Report

The highly-anticipated Mueller Report is finally out with a finding of no collusion by President Trump and his staff. The other charge, obstruction of justice, does not have sufficient evidence for it to be pursued at this time. According to USA Today, here are some stats:

  • 34 individuals indicted (for crimes unrelated to the collusion narrative)
  • 2,800 subpoenas
  • 500 search warrants
  • 500 witnesses
  • $25 million in costs

For some journalists and partisans the news was a great disappointment after years of speculation about the fate of President Trump. For others it was final vindication of the charges that the investigation was a “witch hunt” and a conspiracy theory resulting in years of “fake news.”

The question remains: did the national press fail by engaging in reporting that went too far to advance a story that did not, in the end, have merit? According to Fox News analyst Brit Hume, “It is the worst journalistic debacle of my lifetime and I’ve been in this business about 50 years. I’ve never seen anything quite this bad last this long.” Others argued that the run up to the Iraq War was a greater failure for the press.

In both cases partisan biases were motivating factors and failures to stick to the facts led many to speculate about things that turned out to be untrue. The end result was a loss of credibility and a growing level of distrust by news consumers. News credibility depends of a perception of trust…and if you lose that you’ve lost any pretense of value and reason for existing.

According to the AP, Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi “suggested several reporters and commentators connected too many dots that didn’t add up” and said that “nothing Trump is accused of going forward will be believed by a large segment of the population.” That is just one of the many risks of getting swept up in the moment when your job requires that you keep your biases in check.

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