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Concern over eroding trust of the media after corrected ABC report

In this Nov. 16, 2015 photo provided by ABC, correspondent Brian Ross speaks on "Good Morning America," which airs on the ABC Television Network, in New York. ABC has suspended investigative reporter Ross Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, for four weeks without pay for the network’s incorrect Michael Flynn report on Friday. (Fred Lee/ABC via AP)

Just a few hours after former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty in federal court Friday, there came a bombshell report on ABC News from veteran reporter Brian Ross.

“Ross told viewers that Flynn is prepared to point the finger directly at Trump, and testify that before taking office the president ordered him to make contact with the Russians," said CNN Media Correspondent Brian Stelter on his program over the weekend.

If true, the report could have forged a connection between the Trump campaign and possible Russian election interference.

But later Friday, Ross clarified that it was President-elect Trump who gave the order. ABC retracted his story and suspended Ross for four weeks without pay, but not before a tumble in the stock market which some said was a direct result.


But an even greater consequence than falling stocks could be an eroding confidence in journalists and journalism.

This fear was heightened after a recent Poynter Media Trust survey found that more than 60 percent of people who approve of President Trump agree with him that the media is an enemy of the people.

“The media is the enemy of liars and despots; it's not the enemy of the people,” said Rafael Lorente, Associate Dean at University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

“If this kind of thing becomes a pattern, people can continuously say, 'look, they're being sloppy,' then it adds to the list of reasons why people can claim that we are not there -- we are taking it, but we're not credible,” Lorente added.

He said the 24-hour news cycle presents a challenge - the need for speed.

“We tell our students: stop, take a breath and check it again. If you end up being second and right, that's better than being first and wrong,” he said in an interview Monday on UMD’s campus.

With the president charging media outlets with reporting “fake news” in his daily tweets, experts say now more than ever there is reason to make sure every line of every story has been vetted.


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