Three Major December Media Misfires

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The Columbia Journalism Review claims that the mission of its bimonthly magazine and CJR.org, its companion online effort, is "to encourage excellence in journalism in the service of a free society."

The flip side of that mission should be to identify, criticize and discourage incompetence, dishonesty and bias. CJR.org's alleged year-end compilation of "the worst journalism of 2014" — "a recap of this year’s most cringeworthy news blunders" — does an extraordinarily poor job of that.

It's only an alleged year-end list because CJR published it on December 22, following the herd of dozens of other annual list presenters who couldn't wait until 2014 actually ended.

It's also an extraordinarily weak list. Rolling Stone's now-exposed fabricated account of the fraternity gang rape that didn't happen at the University of Virginia topped the list, but only one of the other items in its compilation — the entirely made-up story of Mohammed Islam, the 17-year-old who suckered New York Magazine into believing that he had made $72 million in the stock market — is anywhere near as "cringeworthy" as at least three other egregious media misfires in December alone.

Here are those three December candidates, all of which did not become known until after CJR's premature publication.

1. "Peaceful" Ferguson protester confesses to arson and burglary.

For several months, 18-year-old Joshua Williams was a media and leftist darling at those Ferguson, Missouri mob gatherings serially misidentified as "protests." Williams "perfected the skill of catching the attention of journalists and using them to elevate his claims of police brutality to national attention," and was "quoted or photographed in countless articles in publications including the New York Times and USA Today." The Associated Press photographed him marching "arm in arm" with black radical Cornel West in October. In mid-December, Williams, who was constantly begging others for money, somehow made it to Washington and spoke at one of Al Sharpton's affiliated whine festivals.

Shortly after Christmas, the media hero was charged with and reportedly confessed to "1st degree arson, 2nd degree burglary and misdemeanor theft" in the torching and looting of a QuikTrip convenience store in Berkeley, Missouri, on Christmas Eve. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch apparently had a hard time getting over being jilted, headlining Williams, after his arrest, as a "protester who advocates peace."

2. The Lena Dunham postscript.

In early December, John Nolte at Breitbart.com's Big Hollywood thoroughly debunked and discredited the details Lena Dunham had included about her alleged rape in her Not That Kind of Girl memoir. "Barry," a name only later identified as a pseudonym, could not have been Oberlin College's "campus’s resident conservative." Among other things, there was no "Barry" who had "a flamboyant mustache," a job at the campus library, or "purple cowboy boots." Nolte could not find "a Republican named Barry who attended Oberlin during Dunham’s time there who came anywhere close to matching her description of him."