It’s less clear that CNN is any less likely to make the same mistakes the next time a racially charged shooting takes place somewhere in America. If there is any hope of CNN doing better next time, it comes from something Brian Stelter said midway through the discussion:
The eyewitnesses that didn’t speak to the press, the ones that were intimidated. According to the DOJ, witnesses that didn’t want to come forward, those are the voices we didn’t hear in the news coverage. And that’s a lesson for journalists, that we weren’t hearing every witness’ point of view.
This is an important point but Stelter doesn’t go nearly far enough with it. His statement makes the process of getting accurate information sound passive, as if the eyewitnesses who did and did not come forward did so independent of any outside concern or pressure. But the DOJ report makes clear there was an underlying connection between witness intimidation and bad reporting. Witnesses were already afraid to contradict those who were pushing “Hands up, don’t shoot,” but the media, CNN included, raised the stakes by amplifying that narrative across the airwaves. In other words, CNN‘s own flawed reporting exacerbated the problem and played a role in suppressing the truth.
—“CNN Misses: ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ Narrative Suppressed the Truth,” John Sexton, Big Journalism, Saturday.
CNN reporter Sara Ganim agreed with one of Hostin’s conclusions centered on her fear that “Jackie’s” experience might lead other victims of sexual assault to stay quiet about their experiences. When too many women who are victims of sexual assault already refuse to come forward, her concerns are valid and should be shared by everyone. But if “Jackie’s” story makes some alleged assault victims refuse to come forward, who is to blame? The university that stripped fraternities of the right to operate on campus in the wake of this story, only to backtrack when the tale was proven inaccurate? The police, who diligently investigated this assault and found no evidence to back up Rolling Stone’s claims? The reporters and editors who shed their journalistic instincts and reported on this erroneous tale? Or the subject of this supposed assault that caused a lot of undue pain and hardship for some unknown gain?
The only victims in this story were the men who were falsely accused of assault and had their lives turned upside down over nothing. To refuse to acknowledge that “Jackie” caused a lot of people undue trauma is the only thing that remotely constitutes “victim blaming” here.
For most people, the response to today’s press conference by Charlottesville police is to react with sadness over the plight of those young men who had their names besmirched. They endured quite a bit of unnecessary suffering for the sake of a dubious victimization narrative favored by some grossly irresponsible voices in the media. The UVA rape fable reflects poorly on many in the press, and it would be wise of these and other commentators to bury their pride, acknowledge the mistakes, and stop the bleeding.
—“Watch: CNN’ers having a hard time coming to terms with implosion of Rolling Stone’s rape story,” Noah Rothman, Hot Air, today.
The guy who said Mitt Romney wanted to see black people drown is on @CNN as an objective analyst talking about Ted Cruz.
— John Nolte (@NolteNC) March 23, 2015
You stay classy, CNN.