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American media’s credibility crisis


FBI agent Erika Jensen confirmed last Wednesday, while testifying in the Hunter Biden gun trial in a Delaware court, that his laptop, initially dismissed as Russian disinformation by media outlets and intelligence experts during the 2020 election, is real. When questioned about its authenticity, she stated that the serial number on the back of the laptop matches the serial number provided in Apple’s response to a subpoena for records.

Let’s revisit a pivotal moment in October 2020, just a few weeks before the presidential election. The New York Post broke a story that would reverberate through the political sphere. It was a story about a laptop allegedly belonging to Hunter Biden that contained emails, photos, and videos that purportedly unveiled contentious business dealings.

The Post story met with significant pushback. Social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, limited its dissemination, citing concerns over the source and integrity of the information.

A group of 52 former senior intelligence officials, including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, released a public letter dismissing the laptop story as having “all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation,” suggesting it was part of a disinformation campaign to influence the election.

As exemplified by NPR managing editor Terence Samuel’s tweet, the media’s choice to dismiss the story clearly indicates their disregard for the public’s right to information. Samuel tweeted:

We don’t want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories, and we don’t want to waste the listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions. And quite frankly, that’s where we ended up; this was a politically driven event, and we decided to treat it that way.

The joint dismissal of the laptop story by intelligence experts, social media platforms, and the media was a significant event and a severe blow to the public’s trust. This unified front profoundly impacted the public’s perception of the story, potentially influencing the outcome of the 2020 election and further eroding the already tenuous trust in the media.

American Media's Credibility Crisis
A TIPP Poll taken in August 2022 showed that 51% of Americans gave the media a D or F grade for its handling of the laptop story.

The media must bow its head in shame. Remorse is an alien word for the ilk. Make no mistake: the media’s continued “hit and run” behavior comes at a cost: the erosion of trust among its readers and listeners.

For example, in a TIPP Poll completed in late May, only 32% of Americans trust the traditional media, and 63% have little or no trust at all. 52% of Democrats trust the media, while 76% of Republicans and 70% of independents don’t.

American Media's Credibility Crisis

TIPP has been tracking the Traditional Media Index monthly since March 2021. Responses to the following question form the basis of the index:

Generally speaking, how much trust do you have in the traditional or established news media (e.g., Washington Post, New York Times, NPR, CBS News, etc.) to report the news accurately and fairly?

The index ranges from 0 to 100. Scores above 50 indicate trust, scores below 50 indicate a lack of trust, and a score of 50 is neutral.

American Media's Credibility Crisis

The lack of trust is impacting media houses. For instance, The Washington Post is in trouble. According to news reports, it is bleeding money as its audience shrinks. Last year, it suffered $77 million in losses, leading to nearly 13% staff layoffs. The Post’s website traffic has dropped from 243 million visitors in May 2020 to only 132 million in May, according to Similarweb data.

Will Lewis, The Washington Post publisher, put it bluntly: “We are losing large amounts of money. Your audience is halved. People are not reading your stuff. I can’t sugarcoat it anymore.”

Lewis is spot on in his observation.

What is the cure to the disease afflicting America’s media houses?

Earning Americans’ trust. And that’s not easy.

First, the media must unshackle itself from the Democratic party. Also, it must not succumb to pressure from myopic hyper-partisans like James Carville, who demand more slanted coverage. Recently Carville said:

I don’t have anything against slanted coverage. I really don’t; I would have something against it at most other times in American history, but not right now. F— your objectivity. The real objectivity in this country right now is we’re either going to have a Constitution, or we’re not.

We agree with the New York Times executive editor Joe Kahn that it wasn’t the paper’s job to be an arm of the Biden campaign.

Here are a few other recommendations:

  1. Be professional. Follow the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) code of ethics.
  2. Focus solely on reporting the news and hard facts rather than shaping a narrative.
  3. Do not suppress or spike stories that do not fit preconceived narratives. Report all news, regardless of whether it furthers an editorial agenda.
  4. To minimize personal bias—separate journalism from personal political views. When you wear the journalist hat, you must give your readers or viewers unfiltered factual information.
  5. Generally speaking, lean towards more transparency than less. Don’t hide behind anonymous sources.
  6. Tell the whole story.  Tell the beginning, the middle, and the end.
  7. Don’t underestimate the intelligence of your readers or viewers.
  8. Periodically introspect and develop best practices.
  9. And last but not least, don’t ever invent stories. It is malpractice of the worst kind.

If the media does not correct course, its survival is in jeopardy. Expect more bankruptcies and layoffs. Newton’s third law thrives. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. That’s the universe’s reward for media malfeasance.

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TIPP Takes

Geopolitics, Geoeconomics, And More

1. Far-Right Advances In The European Parliament Election – Tipp Insights

Centrist groups have retained a majority in the European Parliament, but gains by far-right parties in France and Germany are raising questions about how the EU’s major powers can drive policy in the bloc.

American Media's Credibility Crisis

2. Macron Calls Snap Parliament Election As French Far Right Dominate EU Vote – BBC

French President Emmanuel Macron called for a snap parliamentary election after this weekend’s far-right surge in the European election.

American Media's Credibility Crisis

“I cannot act as if nothing had happened,” Macron said, announcing his decision. The National Rally won more than double the votes of Macron’s centrist alliance.

Far-right parties made gains in Italy, Austria, and Germany, as 360 million eligible voters chose 720 new Members of the European Parliament (MEPs).

3. Israel War Cabinet Minister Gantz Quits Netanyahu Government – AFP

Benny Gantz, a former Israeli general and defense minister, announced his resignation from Israel’s war cabinet after failing to get a post-war plan for Gaza approved by Netanyahu, which he demanded in May.

American Media's Credibility Crisis
Benny Gantz

“Netanyahu is preventing us from progressing to a real victory. That is why we are leaving the emergency government today with a heavy heart,” Gantz said.

Gantz has been seen as a favorite to form a coalition in the event that Netanyahu’s government is overthrown and early elections are called.

4. In Major Discovery, IDF Locates One Of Hamas’s Last Weapons Factories In Rafah – The Jerusalem Post

Besides the factory serving Hamas as a way to continue to build and develop new weapons, from rockets to anti-tank missiles to lighter weapons, the facility had dozens of weapons that were already ready for use.

American Media's Credibility Crisis
Photos of the weapons production workshop located by the Tzabar Battalion:

The discovery of this latest factory could be the last such revelation or at least one of the few remaining such facilities that Hamas still had in operation until now.

5. U.S. Calls On Security Council To Back Gaza Ceasefire Plan – AFP

The United States announced it has requested a UN Security Council vote on its draft resolution backing a plan for an “immediate ceasefire with the release of hostages” between Israel and Hamas.

American Media's Credibility Crisis

Diplomatic sources said the vote is planned for Monday but has not yet been confirmed by South Korea, which holds the Security Council presidency for June.

6. White House Declines To Say Whether Biden Will Meet Netanyahu During Washington Visit – Reuters

Netanyahu is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress on July 24. 

American Media's Credibility Crisis

Biden has been a staunch supporter of Israel in its war with Hamas in Gaza, but there have been tensions between the two men over how Israel is conducting the war.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan hoped a ceasefire and hostage deal would be in place when Netanyahu came to Washington. He said Hamas must simply say “yes” to the proposal on the table.

7. U.S. Military Resumes Humanitarian Airdrops In Gaza After Operational Halt – AFP

An American cargo plane dropped more than ten metric tons of rations into northern Gaza on Sunday, the U.S. military said, after a suspension of such deliveries due to Israeli operations in the area.

American Media's Credibility Crisis

“To date, the U.S. has airdropped more than 1,050 metric tons of humanitarian assistance” in addition to aid delivered via a temporary pier attached to the Gaza coast, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said.

8. Biden’s Gaza Pier Runs Up $22 Million In Repair Costs – DCNF

It will cost at least $22 million to repair the pier before it can become operational again. Still, the costs could balloon to as high as $28 million, Pentagon officials told The Washington Post, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

American Media's Credibility Crisis

Defense experts and former U.S. officials previously told the DCNF that the pier was a “horrible” idea and that there were far better ways to get aid to Gaza.

9. Latest-Generation Russian Fighter Jet Hit For First Time, Ukraine Claims – Reuters

Ukrainian forces have, for the first time, hit a latest-generation Russian Sukhoi Su-57 fighter jet at an air base inside Russia, Kyiv’s GUR defense intelligence agency said, showing satellite pictures that it said confirmed the strike.

American Media's Credibility Crisis

While the GUR did not specify how the Su-57 was hit, a popular Russian pro-war military blogger who calls himself Fighterbomber and focuses on aviation said the report of the strike on the Su-57 was correct and that a drone had hit it.

10. Russia’s Hawkish Hold Leaves Rate Hike On Table As Economy Booms – Bloomberg News

Russia’s central bank extended its interest-rate pause. However, it signaled that monetary tightening is still an option, as the country’s war in Ukraine continues to overheat the economy and stoke inflation.

American Media's Credibility Crisis

For the fourth meeting in a row, policymakers kept their benchmark at 16% on Friday.

“Returning inflation to the target will require a significantly longer period of maintaining tight monetary conditions in the economy than it was forecast in April,” the central bank said. It now anticipates price growth will return to its 4% goal in 2025 and then “stabilize close” to that level.

11. Biden, France’s Macron Reach Agreement On Using Russian Assets For Ukraine – Reuters

President Joe Biden said he had agreed with French President Emmanuel Macron on using profits from frozen Russian assets to help Ukraine. Details weren’t disclosed. 

American Media's Credibility Crisis

Around $281 billion in Russian central bank funds, most in the European Union, are frozen worldwide. The funds generate up to $3.8 billion annually in profit, which the EU says isn’t contractually owed to Russia and therefore represents a windfall. Russia says diversion profits from frozen funds would amount to theft.

12. A Cartoon Cat Has Been Vexing China’s Censors – Now He Says They Are On His Tail – BBC

As anti-lockdown protests flared across China’s cities in November 2022, hundreds of thousands worldwide were glued to an unlikely source: a mysterious X account fronted by a cartoon cat.

American Media's Credibility Crisis
A Chinese dissident – who is behind a popular X account fronted by this cartoon cat – says Beijing is trying to silence him

Teacher Li Is Not Your Teacher posted a torrent of real-time updates sourced from ordinary citizens, all of it curated by one person sitting in a bedroom in Italy – an art school student named Li Ying.

Mr. Li, in an interview, alleged the Chinese government is not only harassing him but also his friends, family, and X followers in a coordinated campaign of intimidation.

13. Tibet Continued To Be The Most Restricted Destination In PRC For Int’l Travellers In 2023 – Tibetan Review

Chinese government regulations and procedures that have historically impeded travel to Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and Tibetan areas outside the TAR for U.S. diplomats and officials, journalists, and tourists remained in place in 2023, witnessing no improvement over 2022.

American Media's Credibility Crisis

Three TAR travel requests made by U.S. officials during the year were rejected. The U.S. State Department, in its latest annual report on the implementation of the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2018, said nothing as stringent as the TAR regulations exists for travel to any other provincial-level entity in China.

14. Iran Approves Parliament Head, Five Others As Presidential Candidates – RFE/RL

Iran’s powerful Guardians Council approved the country’s conservative parliament speaker and five other candidates to run in a June 28 election called after President Ebrahim Raisi’s death in a helicopter crash.

American Media's Credibility Crisis

The council rejected an application of former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, a populist who harshly cracked down on dissent following his disputed reelection in 2009.

15. North Korea Leader’s Sister Warns Of ‘New Responses’ Against S. Korea’s Loudspeaker Broadcast, Leafleting – Yonhap

The statement by Kim Yo-jong came after the South resumed propaganda loudspeaker broadcasts toward the North in retaliation against the North’s repeated sending of trash-filled balloons amid rising tensions in the inter-Korean border regions.

American Media's Credibility Crisis

Kim claimed that the North was going to stop sending the balloons early this week, but it ended up flying more in response to the anti-Pyongyang leaflets by North Korean defectors and activists in the South.

16. New Zealand To End Ban On Oil And Gas Exploration – AFP

A bill to be introduced this year would end the five-year-old ban that has only allowed exploration for new petroleum on some onshore fields in the country’s North Island.

American Media's Credibility Crisis

Resources Minister Shane Jones claimed the ban had stymied international investment and compromised the country’s energy security.

The “Fast Track Approvals” bill would allow several environmental regulations to be bypassed and the consenting process sped up for major infrastructure projects.

17. Narendra Modi Sworn In For 3rd Term As India’s Prime Minister – Kyodo News

Modi’s party and its partners formed the government after winning 292 out of the 543 seats in the lower house.

American Media's Credibility Crisis

Modi is expected to focus on improving unemployment and inflation as the ruling bloc’s poor performance was blamed on the widening gap between the rich and the poor in a country that achieved 8.2 percent growth in gross domestic product last fiscal year.

He is also expected to maintain India’s traditional amicable relations with Russia and stress cooperation with the U.S. under the Quad, a four-way security dialogue framework widely considered a counterweight to China.

18. FDA Urges States To Protect Public From Risk Of Bird Flu In Raw Milk – HealthDay News

In an open letter to state and local officials, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration urged more testing of herds that produce raw milk for sale. It recommended that states use their regulatory powers to stop the sale of raw milk where dairy herds have tested positive.

American Media's Credibility Crisis

On Thursday, Minnesota became the 10th state to report an infected herd. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 82 U.S. herds have tested positive for the H5N1 avian virus.

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Republished with permission from TIPP Insights

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