The big news on Tuesday was all about whether President Donald Trump provided top secret information to Russian diplomats during their meeting on May 10th (the day following the firing of FBI director James Comey). This furor was triggered by a report in the Washington Post based on anonymous sources aka unnamed White House Officials.
The reports about what happens within the Trump Administration that turn out to not be true are becoming legendary, and as someone who gets daily newsletters from the Washington Post, their bias against conservatives in general, and Donald Trump, in particular, are very obvious. I know I am not first to propose this but if the many issues concerning Hillary Clinton and the Obama Administration had received the same scrutiny from the media we could be living in a much different world today.
With this in mind The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway in “Tips For Reading Washington Post Stories About Trump Based On Anonymous Leaks” rewrote the “Breaking News Consumer Handbook” from OnTheMedia.org to how to react to “Breaking News” stories from the Washington Post:
- In the immediate aftermath, news outlets will get it wrong.
- Don’t trust anonymous sources. If democracy dies in darkness, anonymity is not exactly transparent or accountable. Unless someone is willing to put his or her name with a leak, be on guard. Pay attention to how well the reporters characterize the motivations of the anonymous leaker. All leakers have motivation. Does the paper seem to have a grasp on how the motivation affects the veracity of the leak?
- If someone is leaking national security information to support the claim of a national security violation, be on guard.
- If someone is claiming a serious national security crisis but not willing to go public with the claim and resign in protest of same, be on guard.
- Compare sources willing to put their name and reputation on the line.
- Big anti-Trump news brings out the fakers.
- Pay attention to the language the media uses. Is a story about something unimportant being written in such a way as to make it seem more important?
- Beware confirmation bias. Everyone has the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories. Be on guard that you don’t accept critical or exonerating evidence to match your political preferences.
- Pay attention to how quickly and fully editors and reporters correct stories based on false information from anonymous sources. If they don’t correct at all, it’s an indication of a lack of respect.
As far as the current issue with President Trump’s possible leaking of state secrets to the Russians I will refer to someone I do trust, The Resurgent’s Erick Erickson who wrote “I Know One of the Sources” where he gives credence to the idea that President Trump tends to have a loose mouth when it comes to what he reveals:
What sets this story apart for me, at least, is that I know one of the sources. And the source is solidly supportive of President Trump, or at least has been and was during Campaign 2016. But the President will not take any internal criticism, no matter how politely it is given. He does not want advice, cannot be corrected, and is too insecure to see any constructive feedback as anything other than an attack
So some of the sources are left with no other option but to go to the media, leak the story, and hope that the intense blow back gives the President a swift kick in the butt. Perhaps then he will recognize he screwed up. The President cares vastly more about what the press says than what his advisers say. That is a real problem and one his advisers are having to recognize and use, even if it causes messy stories to get outside the White House perimeter.
Though I’m not holding my breath I continue to hold out hope that people will start learning from their mistakes and start withholding judgment until all the facts have been disclosed.