Dishonesty of Journalism

The guild’s latest lie began with a UN lie: Manfred Nowak’s (Independent Expert leading the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty) claim that

100,000 migrant children were detained by the Trump administration and indicated that it was the “world’s highest rate” of detained children.

Then Nowak was forced to confess that the number was cribbed from ex-President Barack Obama (D) administration statistics and that it was Obama who had detained those 100,000 children.

Guild dishonesty that flowed from that was broad.


A Nov 18 story headlined “US has world’s highest rate of children in detention—UN study” is withdrawn. The United Nations issued a statement on Nov 19 saying the number was not current but was for the year 2015. No replacement story will be issued[.]

National Public Radio:

We have temporarily withdrawn this story because the study’s author has acknowledged a significant error in the data. We will post a revised article with more complete information as soon as possible.

Apparently, “as soon as possible” means “if and when we feel like it.” As I write, three days after the lie, NPR doesn’t seem to have found it possible to correct its tale.

Agence France-Presse:

AFP is withdrawing this story.
The author of the report has clarified that his figures do not represent the number of children currently in migration-related US detention, but the total number of children in migration-related US detention in 2015.
We will delete the story.

Associated Press:

The Associated Press has withdrawn its story about a claim about the number of children being held in migration-related detention in the United States. The story quoted an independent expert working with the UN human rights office saying that over 100,000 children are currently being held. But that figure refers to the total number of US child detentions for the year 2015, according to the UN refugee agency.

And in an example of the danger of anyone relying on claims of the journalism guild, the Democratic National Committee got caught using the lie, unchecked, uncorroborated in any way, to make political hay:

This is a disgusting result of Trump’s family separation policies- pushed by Stephen Miller who has cited white nationalist propaganda in promoting his views. It’s also, apparently, a violation of a UN treaty, the Convention on the Rights of the Child[.]

But, apparently, a UN official lying about migration statistics doesn’t violate much of anything.

Notice the breadth of this journalistic dishonesty.  The guild broadly repeated the lie without even the barest effort to verify, or even corroborate, it.

Then on the lie having been caught out, the guild tried to cover up its own role in spreading the lie by simply announcing that they were deleting their stories [sic]. They made no move to correct them, only to hide them.

And they published not a single syllable of apology for their role in proselytizing the lie.

Cornell Law School professor William A. Jacobson has the right of this shameful episode:

Real journalism is reporting the truth, not covering it up. When the article originally portrayed Trump negatively, it was big news. When the truth came out that Obama was to blame, not Trump, the headline and text should have been corrected, not taken down[.]

But that’s not guild practice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *