Clean Up on Aisle Gawker!
A lot has been written about the J.K. Trotter/Shep Smith story since FNC came out to rubbish it with the overwhelming majority of stories rightfully blasting Gawker on its now abundantly clear flawed timeline. But is that the end of this? Possibly not. And for a reason why you should read Erik Wemple’s story on the subject…
The picnic incident in Trotter’s story was a juicy and tell-tale moment — if only it had been true. Now that it has been debunked, doesn’t the rest of the story sort of collapse around it? No, says Gawker Editor-in-Chief Max Read in a chat with the Erik Wemple Blog.
“He doesn’t have to be at the party flipping out,” says Read, who stresses that it’s the alleged reaction of Shine that matters. “It still operates within the realm of the story that [Trotter’s] piece is telling.”
Nor did Gawker’s source on the picnic tell Trotter that Shine was at the picnic. As Read tells it, Trotter learned of Shine’s reaction and “erroneously assumed that meant that Shine was physically present, which was not the case.”
Ouch. This admission really does make Trotter look bad in ways that FNC’s pushback couldn’t. Never assume anything and print it without noting it’s an assumption.
Gawker is diving back into the particulars, says Read, to get more certainty on the timeline: “My guess is that when our source is saying this came up in contract negotiations, he meant it as discussions about Shep’s show.” Last September, Fox News took away Smith’s 7 p.m. show, limiting him to his 3 p.m. slot, but at the same time it named him managing editor and chief news anchor, a move that Gawker termed a “demotion.” “We want to establish as accurately as possible the sequence of events, but we believe we’ve got it probably right,” says Read. “I don’t think it’s wrong.”
Ugh. More assumptions? And only now you want to “establish accurately as possible the sequence of events”? Uh…how about before you write the dang story? It just gets worse for Gawker and Trotter.
As a measure of the Gawker story’s troubles, consider that Media Matters for America, a clearinghouse for anti-Fox News stories, didn’t write up a summary on its Web site. “We looked into it. But because the sources were anonymous and there was no definitive proof, we wanted to see if Fox issued a statement. Once they did, it didn’t seem like there was enough to go on,” notes Jess Levin, spokeswoman for Media Matters.
Man…even Media Matters wouldn’t touch the story. What’s that tell you?
That all said, there is this factoid which as far as I can tell Wemple has been the only one to note…
That’s to say nothing of the techniques that Fox News visits on reporters. As NPR’s David Folkenflik exposed in his 2013 book “Murdoch’s World,” the network planted false information with a reporter, essentially baiting him to publish it. He did. Fox News then released a statement slamming the reporter’s credibility.
This is what makes some of us pause and start looking for the angles whenever FNC comes out denying a story or offers clarification to any story which paints it in a negative light. No other cable news network has ever gone to the lengths FNC has to sabotage the people who cover it. There is a documented past at work there. They have poisoned the well of credibility with their prior actions. This is why I can’t say with 100% certitude that FNC’s denials, while full throttled and apparently conclusive, are the last word in this story. History shows that hasn’t always been the case.