Chicago media teaches master class with careful coverage of Smollett story
That erosion is especially amplified on the right, where 92 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents “say that traditional news outlets knowingly report false or misleading stories at least sometimes,” according to a 2018 poll conducted by Axios and Survey Monkey.
That sentiment also extends to independents and even a majority of Democrats, with 79 percent of the former and 53 percent of the latter saying they also believe traditional outlets knowingly report false or misleading stories at least sometimes.
National media ran with the story as absolute fact despite the obvious questions. This was evidenced by the word “alleged” curiously missing from dozens of headlines and articles weeks after Smollett first made his claim.
“Celebrities, lawmakers rally behind Jussie Smollett in wake of brutal attack” – ABC News
“Analysis: The Jussie Smollett attack highlights the hate black gay Americans face” – Washington Post
“‘Empire’ star Jussie Smollett attacked in possible hate crime” – CNN
“Empire star Jussie Smollett attacking in Chicago by men hurling homophobic and racial slurs” – NBC News
“Celebrities Rally Behind Jussie Smollett After Brutal Attack In Chicago” – Buzzfeed
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) January 29, 2019
Empire’s Jussie Smollett was assaulted in Chicago in a possible hate crime https://t.co/8HgF4i8PLz
— Vox (@voxdotcom) January 29, 2019
Media outlets who 1st reported Smollett was “attacked” made an error. Initially most of us in #Chicago media reported “Jussie Smollett says he was attacked” because we didn’t know if it actually happened. It’s the old adage, “if your mother says she loves you, check it out”
— Rafer Weigel (@RaferWeigel) February 18, 2019
BREAKING: @ABC7Chicago obtains surveillance video that appears to show brothers involved in Smollett investigation leaving a Chicago store after buying items allegedly used in staged attack on Jussie Smollett. pic.twitter.com/YfKDDHuIpa
— Rob Elgas (@RobElgasABC7) February 20, 2019
In an interesting twist despite this story being huge for the better part of four weeks, neither of these reporters have appeared on almost any national news outlets, which is commonplace in situations like this when local resources are tapped to speak on developing stories. Only Fox News booked Weigel, for which he was criticized until explaining why that was the case:
For those asking me why I only went on @seanhannity @IngrahamAngle and @ShannonBream on @FoxNews, to talk #JussieSmollett and not any others—simply, they are the national TV shows that asked me to come on.
— Rafer Weigel (@RaferWeigel) February 20, 2019
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson put this whole situation into perspective during a Wednesday press conference, highlighting out of whack many priorities are in this business: “It’s just despicable … I just wish that the families of gun violence in this city got this much attention,” he said.
There were 530 murders in Chicago last year. Since Smollett first made his claim, 18 people have been killed alone, including a 1-year-old child who was shot to death.
This should be a teachable moment when. Facts and verification are tossed aside when the media’s attempt to be first instead of accurate. We’re seeing the same things happen again and again.