Minutes of research appears to be too much for today’s journalists.
One of the frustrating components of contemporary news activity on social media is the lazy practice of resorting to ‘’headline reading’’. This is when someone gets incensed and begins railing about a story without reading the attached article, missing pertinent details which could have quelled their anger. News outlets have recognized this behavior and they actually feed it, crafting headlines that alter or even sometimes actually contradict the content of an article.
Now we may be crossing into a new realm — journalists repeating a falsified headline. The people whose job description is to look into a story cannot be bothered to even read an article, the same people who recoil at being described as ‘’Fake News’’. Yet here they are, spending last night and today repeating a false story based on nothing more than a misleading headline.
It begins with Reuters. The news syndicate put out a story late yesterday about Brian Harrison, the new appointee to the coronavirus task force and it was so slanted that it defies being called a ‘’news story’’. Reuters dubbed this a Special Report, yet managed to specialize in yellow journalism, running the headline ‘’Former Labradoodle breeder was tapped to lead U.S. pandemic task force’’. It did not stop there.
Alex Azar tapped a trusted aide with minimal public health experience to lead the agency’s day-to-day response to COVID-19. The aide, Brian Harrison, had joined the department after running a dog-breeding business for six years. Five sources say some officials in the White House derisively called him “the dog breeder.”
This was all that was needed for many in the press to run with it. The idea that Donald would place someone with such a flimsy background in such an important position was just too good of a story to pass up. It was also too good to be true and thus, too savory to ruin with solid research.
As Brian Harrison hails from the Dallas area it became evident that he is a known entity to the Dallas Morning News. The local paper managed to do something the deeply erudite and important newsmakers from the national news organizations could not be bothered with undertaking — it gave the full story on Harrison, a career individual in the Washington D.C. orbit. It took all but an opening paragraph to completely render the latest media narrative about the administration.
No, the Trump administration did not put a professional dog breeder from Dallas in charge of COVID-19 response. Yes, the chief of staff at the Department of Health and Human Services briefly owned a family business raising Labradoodles. But he’s also served three administrations in high level posts at HHS, the White House and the Pentagon.
The Dallas paper was being charitable in referring to the dog breeder angle as ‘’overblown’’, given that what Reuters resorted to was much closer to being ‘’a lie’’. While Harrison had owned a breeding enterprise for a time, he sold that business two years ago. What has he been up in the time since that former business? He was in Washington, working at HHS. A veteran of three administrations and numerous years spent at the very agency is something that might be looked at as qualifying qualities.
Not for the media. The focus is entirely on a former business, and not his lengthy career in Washington, which began in 2004. Chris Hayes of MSNBC latched onto the sophistry.
"The aide, Brian Harrison, had joined the department after running a dog-breeding business for six years. Five sources say some officials in the White House derisively called him “the dog breeder.”" https://t.co/qbojpAaR1N
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) April 22, 2020
But Hayes is hardly alone. The list of others in the press who adored the headline yet spurned the research was notable.
— Derek Hunter (@derekahunter) April 24, 2020
That the headline writers are reduced now to only being headline readers might be an inevitable conclusion. When the press cannot be bothered to read their own reports it might just excuse us from consuming their content as well.