When TV Doesn't Check Trump's Tweets, Fake News Can Spread

Retweeting official political tweets -- via other platforms -- without checking the facts, isn’t a good idea. It's bad, sloppy journalism.

But to be fair, what do outlets do when they have thousands of pieces of information to verify? The best approach: maybe just avoidance.

So this brings us to the President of the U.S. who, we know, shoots from the hip, which his supporters love. (For some reason, he doesn’t have any content/copy editors or fact-checkers, like the rest of us.)

Trump's tally for false or misleading claims, per The Washington Post, is 10,111 since he assumed office. The Toronto Star has other data, pegging his specious remarks at 8,158.

According to a three-week survey, Media Matters of America examined more than 2,000 tweets posted between January 26 and February 15 from Twitter accounts of major U.S. print, online and broadcast news outlets.



Looking at 32 major news outlets Twitter feeds, it found 65% of the time those news organizations failed to fact-checked Trump. Inaccurate or false information was broadcast without context.

Beyond just the tweets, fact-checking timing can be a tricky thing, given the platforms. It wasn’t only tweets that were analyzed, but live Trump speeches, press conferences and interviews.

Who came out on top in handling all this? NPR, and, drum roll, Fox News Channel. But their approaches were not what you may think.

NPR’s main Twitter account published just 20 tweets about Trump comments in that three-week period. Four of the tweets referenced false claims made by Trump and fact-checked by NPR, which disputed all of them.

Fox News? According to the study, it did not tweet anything in reference to comments from Trump directly in the three weeks during which the study was conducted.

Is this a case of “What I don’t know, won’t hurt me” or “I don’t know if I can trust this source?”

Now, many would say avoidance is the wrong approach. News organizations need to keep those in power -- of all stripes -- accountable. That means checking on the information they get before airing or publishing.

Journalists have regular sources of information -- on the record and off the record. But over certain periods, those sources can, at times, become unreliable. When that happens, journalists give them little or no presence.

Bottom line for such sources: Don’t listen to what they say, just watch -- and report -- what they do.

3 comments about "When TV Doesn't Check Trump's Tweets, Fake News Can Spread".
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  1. Alan COX from Dan Fife Communications and Marketing, May 6, 2019 at 3:08 p.m.

    Mr. Friedman, I would say that using the Washington Post as a reference on about Fake News from the President is a very poor source. The Washington Post has an agenda. They count the wrong use of word as fake news. More so since the release of the Muellar Report, most of the media is gulity of Fake News. When a news organiztion align themselves with groups and political parties with an agenda, they became lazy. The great Edward R. Morrow, Walter Cronkite. Walter Lippman and Joseph Pulitzer would ashamed to have news people today refered as journalist. The News people today gather their news for the internet and the only fact check is Snopes.

  2. Judson Beck from Nexstar, May 9, 2019 at 4:15 p.m.

    What about fact checking everything?   By highlighting TRUMP, your argument collapses.  Everything should be fact checked.  Objectivity is another basis of good journalism, you and others would do well to remember that. 

  3. Bill Shane from Eastlan Ratings, May 13, 2019 at 7:16 p.m.

    You'll notice that he did not use Teh Washington Post as a sole source.  The Tornto Star was also included and although the number was a few thousand less, it still hovered around 8,000. That's disgusting for the President of the United States to lie so many times to the American people.  There is no justification for twisting stories like he does just to prop up his own ego.

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