It is remarkable to me how people continue to watch, defend and put up with the sorry state of television news.
When I worked at United Press International in the 1970s, we had very difficult desegregation busing decisions that required quick, but thorough analysis. If I had gotten a decision wrong on the UPI wire, I would have been fired then and there. That’s no longer the case.
Both Fox News and CNN got the story flat wrong. In their rush to get the news out, coupled with their built-in bias as to what the decision would be, both networks initially reported that the Supreme Court had struck down the law’s individual mandate. Of course they were wrong, because the opposite actually happened.
“The mandate is gone,” Shannon Bream, a Fox News correspondent, announced at 10:08 a.m. as a graphic flashed on the screen that called it unconstitutional. A moment later, one of the Fox anchors, Megyn Kelly, cautioned that Bream might be wrong.
“We’re getting conflicting information,” Kelly said, while reading from Scotus blog, an a web site about the court. Citing the blog, she accurately told viewers that “the individual mandate is surviving as a tax.”
At the same time on CNN, relaying information from a producer, Bill Mears, on the phone inside the court building, a correspondent, Kate Bolduan, said, “It appears as if the Supreme Court justices have struck down the individual mandate.”
“Wow,” said Wolf Blitzer, the anchor, who immediately said that if the court had indeed done what she had said, it would be a setback for President Obama and the Democratic Party. Despite his qualified words, a banner on the screen read, “Supreme Ct. Kills Individual Mandate.” The mistake lingered for six minutes — well after other television networks and news outlets had reported that the opposite was true.
Editors and producers at several organizations said they would emphasize accuracy over speed in any coverage of the decision, lest they risk being wrong. But today news organizations hire amateur reporters at low pay scales and expect them to have the skill to report accurately. Fox was even taking information from a blog, not first-hand reporting. This was absolute proof of the low state of TV news.
“CNN regrets that it didn’t wait to report out the full and complete opinion regarding the mandate,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. “We made a correction within a few minutes and apologize for the error.”
Fox News did not issue an apology. In a statement, Michael Clemente, a Fox executive, said flatly, “Fox reported the facts as they came in.” Clemente should be fired for his arrogance, much less his incompetence.
Even the President of the United States, watching like much of the nation, was fooled by the bad reporting. He, of all people, should have known better.
That’s the difference in news today. It should be strong proof that television coverage is unreliable and amateur at best. Turn them off is my advice.