The Media Needs To Focus On Being True, Not Being First
Another day, another unchecked Trump statement spread far and wide.
On Wednesday, President-elect Donald Trump touted 5,000 new Sprint jobs and 3,000 OneWeb jobs that are going to be created in the U.S. Glowing headlines followed.
End of story, right? Trump’s a hero. A job saving magician.
Not so fast.
As The New York Times reports, these new Sprint jobs were part of a previously announced commitment by Japan’s SoftBank to invest $50 billion in the United States and create 50,000 jobs. SoftBank also owns a stake in OneWeb, the company that Trump said would create 3,000 additional jobs in the U.S.
Trump also stated that these thousands of jobs were being taken from other countries and coming back to the U.S. There is no evidence that any of these jobs were going to be leaving the U.S. These are actually new jobs being created due to the expansion in Sprint and OneWeb spurred by SoftBank’s investment. They are not being saved from outsourcing.
Sprint and OneWeb both confirmed that these new jobs were indeed part of the 50,000 new jobs from the SoftBank investment that Trump has already touted. OneWeb sent out a press release announcing the 3,000 new jobs on December 19th.
When a reporter mentioned Sprint’s assertion that these were part of the SoftBank deal, Trump denied it: “No…Sprint will give you, I just spoke with the head person, he said because of me they’re doing five thousand jobs in this country.”
So what happened is, Trump repackaged a previous development and announced it as if it was a new one, and many in the media fell for it. Trump got the tremendous headlines, without context, that he wanted.
Some covered it appropriately. Bloomberg did an excellent job of providing the necessary context in their headline: “Trump Seeks Credit for 5,000 Sprint Jobs Already Touted”
This does seem like a subtle distinction, but these minor details have a broader effect on public opinion than you may think.
What this comes down to is the media’s need to be first. When any news breaks, publications race to be the first to cover the story so that they can drive the most traffic to their sites. We see this result in misleading headlines on stories that haven’t fully developed yet. This can be dangerous when it comes to terrorist attacks and other high-alert breaking developments. This knee jerk reporting can be especially misleading when applied to our President-elect, who is notorious for making blatantly false claims.
What we see happen on a daily basis is almost too predictable:
It’s understandable to try and get the story out quickly. We live in a fast paced world. I get that. But to do so without providing adequate context is not okay, especially when it comes to Trump.
This need to be first only further perpetuates our nation’s misinformation problem. Many people skim headlines and don’t necessarily dive deep into the heart of an article. A study from Columbia University and the French National Institute, found that 59% of links shared on social media have never actually been clicked.
With this in mind, media organizations need to prioritize being true over being first. Given the fact that the majority of links shared online aren’t even being clicked, proper context must be provided in the headlines.
Some in the media are fully aware of this problem and did move to spread this truth.
We – us, the media – have GOT to stop running with stuff he says without confirmation. Got to. https://t.co/R78cbCTuxU
so Trump re-purposed a jobs announcement and, naturally, a got a bunch of good headlines for it https://t.co/iN9DTAXhiv
There needs to be an overall shift in media strategy. In this new misinformation age, the people want truth and context. They want the whole story. People can sense click-bait a mile away, so this chase for clicks is a short-sighted strategy. Media publications will soon realize that although those quick stories will give them their beloved clicks in the short-term, their readers will soon churn and seek out other publications that actually value truth over speed.