When The Denver Post made a mistake, local NBC affiliate KUSA paid the price by having one of its reports labeled as fake news. A Columbia Journalism Review report shows how small errors can create big problems for journalists.
KUSA did a report about Republican Congressman Mike Coffman, a leading proponent of repealing Obamacare, holding a meeting attended by hundreds of people, some of whom, the Denver NBC affiliate reported were there to talk about the future of their health insurance.
When Coffman left the meeting early, KUSA caught it on video and made it the basis of its story. “While more than 100 people were waiting to meet with him, Mike Coffman sneaks out early from his own community event,” tweeted KUSA reporter Nelson Garcia.
But despite having Coffman’s exit on video, The Denver Post ran a story contradicting the KUSA report. The Post reported Coffman was at the meeting the whole time. The trouble for KUSA was that The Post later admitted it didn’t have a reporter at the meeting.
A conservative blog picked up on the discrepancy and used The Post’s mistake to call the KUSA story fake news.
A few days after The Denver Post’s correction, a similar event played out on the national stage. During his Saturday speech to CIA staff, President Donald Trump went off-script to lay into Time magazine reporter Zeke Miller for an error Miller made in a White House press pool report. Miller, whose view was “obscured by an agent and door,” couldn’t see a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr., and wrote that it had been removed from the Oval Office. In fact, it had not.
Saying the bust was missing was a bad mistake, and Miller corrected his pool report within 30 minutes, according to CNN; he also posted a string of apologies on Twitter. But the backlash to Miller’s error ended up becoming a story in itself. Trump himself called out Miller’s mistake as an example of “how dishonest the media is.” White House spokesman Sean Spicer, who accepted Miller’s apology, also tweeted that the error was “a reminder of the media danger of tweet first check facts later.”
— Nelson Garcia (@9NewsEducation) January 14, 2017