Q&A – Journalistic Malpractice; Covington Catholic Teens

Today’s note comes from Joe: 

When members of the press publish a report about an occurrence, they have a responsibility to find out what actually happened before they publish their story. Writing a story before they know what happened is irresponsible. More importantly, published reports can ruin lives. They just published a version that was entirely incorrect but was consistent with their “political” views. This story involved young people who are pursuing a life of success. The “screening process” engaged in by employers, involves completing thorough background checks to evaluate candidates. Five or ten years from now, what will a “Google search” say about these boys? What will the “background search” on the students involved in the Duke / Lacrosse case say? We don’t know.  

Should “Freedom of the Press” protect media people to the extent that they can write anything they want and ruin anybody they want at any time? Does the Constitution protect these people without limit? I don’t pretend to be a lawyer, but it seems clear to me that this is an issue we need to talk about. If the print and broadcast companies were forced to write a BIG CHECK to these young people they would be more cautious not checking the “facts” of a story should be unprofessional. Then it wouldn’t matter what an employment screening might indicate. 

Bottom Line: Part of the issue, especially in the case of the Duke Lacrosse team that was falsely accused of rape, was the willingness of President Obama to immediately weigh in assigning guilt as well. That particular example speaks to a couple of issues pertaining to your question. 

The rush to judgment is often everywhere and once the president, for example, weighs in the media can cover the president’s response conveying their opinion as fact if they decide not to do their job to establish the facts. It’s an epidemic that’s only getting worse. What’s more is that many that latch onto the “hot takes” never know the truth once it eventually emerges in these instances. Ask around about the Duke Lacrosse case. I’ll be willing to bet that at least some of the people who’re familiar with the case believe the team was guilty of rape. 

The Covington Catholic teens featured in the videos have retained an attorney who intends to pursue defamation charges against media outlets that falsely reported what happened at the Lincoln Memorial. Part of the reason there isn’t more accountability is how difficult it is to achieve a resolution to defamation cases. We’ll see what happens. 

Here are a few facts about those cases: 

  • 1 year – the length of time of average discovery in defamation cases 
  • 3 years – the length of time for the average defamation case to be heard in court 
  • 13% - the success rate for defamation suits 

You can imagine how expensive, laborious and difficult it is to win defamation suits. As a result, few are ever brought forward, and journalistic malpractice persists. 

You can submit yours by one of these methods.  

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com 

Twitter: @brianmuddradio 

Facebook: Brian Mudd https://www.facebook.com/brian.mudd1 

 

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