The moments when I lose trust in the news

Generally, I like to say that I support the news media. Living in Norway, I support the major newspapers VG, Dagbladet, and Aftenposten directly with recurring digital subscriptions, and I often watch the evening news on the commercial TV 2 network and the government-owned NRK channel.

For the evening news today, 27 April 2019, TV 2 did a segment on economic enthusiasm in the United States. It briefly showed a clip of former president Barack Obama, though it didn’t show him talking. But then it showed a clip of current president Donald Trump. That one did feature Trump talking. I don’t have the exact word-by-word quote, but he basically said “Our country has the hottest economy anywhere in the world”. That statement has been debunked as false multiple times, and has been reported so by multiple press outlets internationally. And yet, the Norwegian subtitles fully translated Trump’s words and there were no indications on-screen that he was, in fact, not telling the facts. This clip was hours old, not a live broadcast, and the statement itself has been repeated by Trump on numerous occasions. That doesn’t make it any more true.

These are the moments when I lose a little bit of trust in the news. They aren’t supposed to repeat false statements from politicians, they’re there to present the truth to the public. I, an ordinary citizen with no journalistic expertise, just Googled it to find out that it was false. I literally found out it was false 10 seconds after I saw the clip. You’re telling me these journalists couldn’t have spent exactly as many seconds as me doing the same? A 5-hour research trip isn’t necessary here.

Proper journalistic fact-checking would involve a banner appearing prominently on-screen, something to the effect of “False statement”. Don’t try sugar-coating it in any way. The statement that the United States has the hottest economy in the world is false. Don’t try to give it any sense of “But the economy is doing great”; you’re in the middle of a segment about an improving economy, so people know what they’re watching. Do hard-hitting journalism, don’t soften the blow, present the full facts and truth, and don’t help raise the number of serious media organizations who will go into the history books as having failed at some point to do, and display, basic fact-checking.

I wouldn’t normally be this upset about a 5-second clip without a “false” statement attached to it, but this is just another example of what helped elect Trump president in the first place; TV news just repeats his statement and people don’t get the knowledge that it was false. Be bold and be visible about it. Correct the record when it’s false, and don’t help propagate a false statement.

Rant over.

Updated 28 April 2019 14:43 UTC+2: Grammar correction

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