Media errors lend some credence to charges of 'fake news'

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)

The term “fake news” has officially gone mainstream, with dozens of tweets from President Donald Trump criticizing the media and some people using the term in daily conversation.

And it turns out some of the biggest news outlets - from The Washington Post to CNN - have been putting out information that was later found to be misleading or in some cases totally false.

In May, a CNN report touted as a bombshell suggested wrongdoing by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in failing to disclose meetings he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not disclose meetings he had with Russian officials when he applied for his security clearance,” Manu Raju said in the May 24 broadcast.

The Department of Justice said at the time Sessions office was told he didn’t have to include those meetings, and now it turns out they were right. So CNN this week has been walking back its report, citing new documentation that backs up the Justice Department's claims.

This follows ABC News’ suspension of reporter Brian Ross for inaccurate reporting on Michael Flynn and CNN corrections on a story about Donald Trump Jr. getting access to Wikileaks documents before they went public which wasn’t true, prompting Trump to once again call them fake news.

Then this exchange Monday at the White House Press Briefing:

CNN Reporter Jim Acosta said:

“I would just say Sarah that the journalists make honest mistakes and that this would make them fake news.”

White House Press secretary Sarah Sanders responded:

“There's a very big difference between making honest mistakes and purposefully misleading the American people something that happens regularly.”

It’s a concern for media consumers and journalism professors alike that in the quest to get the story first will mean it isn’t always right.

“These days the new cycle isn't the 5 o'clock news or tomorrow morning's newspaper it's 30 seconds ago it's tweeted it get it out very fast,” said Rafael Lorente, associated dean at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism, who added the pattern of mistakes is concerning.

“Whether you like what the president is saying or not it's our job to do our job right, to check the facts to be as credible as possible,” he said.

Without credibility, he says, democracy could be in trouble.

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