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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

MOZENA: Broadcast news staff members must be held accountable

Photo by Sydney Czyzon

In recent years, the news media has bore witness to a dramatic increase of scrutiny from the general public.  In particular, during the current administration, the president of the United States has repeatedly attacked news sources for relaying information, which in the eyes of President Donald Trump, is deliberately misleading and slanderous.  

In fact, according to a recent Gallup poll, only 45 percent of Americans as of 2018 possess “a great deal or fair amount of trust in the mass media,” a figure which is considerably larger than 2016, when trust in media reached an all-time low of just 32 percent.  

Unfortunately, as a byproduct of the skepticism surrounding news sources in the United States, many citizens have resorted to other methodologies of obtaining information, such as depending on social media sites or fringe reporting outlets, such as Natural News or Infowars, which often present a sensationalized and unreliable image of world events and mislead the American public.

As a result, now more than ever, it is imperative that major news sources hold their contributors accountable for the messages they present. Considering traditional news media correspondents are in a unique position to inform the United States citizenry as to the happenings of their country, there has to be an expectation that these individuals will perpetuate information that is accurate and devoid of false or otherwise unsubstantiated information.  

In order to create this atmosphere of accountability for reporters, responsibility would fall very directly on the shoulders of their respective news organizations who have an imperative to hold their correspondents accountable for their rhetoric. Specifically, major news outlets should consistently discourage, and potentially punish, reporters in the event that they deliberately pedal a narrative that is not coherent with reality.  

This is not to say that these media sources should bar perspectives that do not align with their own so much as enforce a standard that information presented cannot be divorced from reality, thereby ensuring that the news which the American public receives is factually correct and without analysis that unfairly skews the paradigms of the consumer.

In the event where a reporter violates the standards of journalism, the specific punishment is obviously to be left to the employer of that individual: However, in general, news sources should consider discontinuing the contributor’s specific platform or even potentially firing the reporter for their actions. Ultimately, news organizations should thoroughly gauge the extent to which the individual in question has perpetuated misleading facts as well as their intent. 

It should be further noted this ideology of holding news reporters accountable for their rhetoric is in no way a new practice.  

In fact, in one case, anchor Brian Williams of NBC news gave a largely fabricated account of being in a helicopter that was under enemy fire while reporting the Iraq War during 2003.  In response, when Williams’ account was proven to be false in 2015, NBC news completely rebuked the news anchor for his actions, and then further suspended him without pay for several months while considering whether or not to allow Williams to once again work for the outlet.  

Eventually, Williams was brought back to NBC after he repeatedly apologized and showed remorse for his false claims. This punishment may have been too light handed for some but, NBC did take an active role in enforcing a standard of truthfulness in their staff and thereby maintaining a greater degree of credibility for the American people.  

As of late, another large media outlet, Fox News, had the opportunity to hold one of its contributors accountable for their speech, specifically in the case of anchor Jeanine Pirro who recently questioned the loyalties of representative Ilhan Omar based solely on the congresswoman’s adherence to the Nation of Islam. Such comments are clearly unacceptable as apart from the xenophobic nature of such rhetoric, Pirro’s comments are purely speculative with no evidence to substantiate her claim. In response to public outcry, Fox News has chosen not broadcast Pirro’s show in the past two weeks: However, they have yet to announce a punishment for the news anchor.

While Pirro’s comments are not identical in nature to those of Brian Williams, it is clear that in this instance, Pirro abused her position to further an unsubstantiated perspective. In order to maintain the integrity of journalism among popular media sources, it is of the utmost importance that Pirro be held accountable for her actions and requisitely punished for her misleading and unproven comments.

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