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The Carletonian

Journalism ethics: the implications of CNN’s sloppy reporting

Aren’t CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, with all of their pundits, all-star journalists and millions of dollars in resources, supposed to do their homework before reporting? As giant professional news networks, should they be relying so heavily on social media platforms like Twitter? With CNN’s latest lawsuit settlement, it seems the answer to these questions are no longer obvious.

Nicholas Sandmann, a student at Covington High School in Kentucky, found himself in the middle of a confusing, bad-optics firestorm during an anti-abortion March For Life event on January 18, 2019. He was caught on video wearing a “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) hat staring and standing directly in front of member of the Omaha Nation Nathan Phillips, who was attending the Indigenous Peoples March. Immediately, millions of members of the “moral police” took to Twitter to express their disapproval of Sandmann. All the ingredients were there: A young white student wearing a MAGA hat and attending a March For Life demonstration staring at a Native American playing a drum.

Soon after the first video and following outrage, the full footage was revealed, showing a group of Black Hebrew Israelites chanting hurtful statements toward the Covington High School students. By then, an investigation cleared the students of any wrongdoing. However, the news sources had already opted for the initial story of Nick Sandmann and his peers being insensitive and racist toward Native Americans.

We have all come to expect such a gut reaction from platforms like Twitter. However, we should not expect such behaviour from legitimate news outlets like CNN, who was shortly sued for defamation by Nick Sandmann. Professional sources like these should not be relying this heavily on social media platforms, especially Twitter—a melting pot of knee-jerk reactions to misinformation. CNN’s settlement of Nick Sandmann’s $275 million lawsuit is proof.

Why is this mistake so important? The timing of the settlement could not be worse for democrats. President Donald Trump has already successfully branded the left-leaning news media as fake news and a settlement like this one, which is basically an admittance of wrong-doing on behalf of the media, is only proving Trump and his supporters right. The Iowa caucus is weeks away and the democrats desperately need to make their case to undecided and disillusioned Trump voters for their spot in the White House in 2020. The democrats and the media cannot afford to make such a mistake. Twitter and Instagram are not legitimate news sources. Therefore, CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post need to treat them as such, so as not to repeat history and help Trump win another four years.

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