A lot of media outlets make their bread and butter off of conveying pretty much every piddling controversial statement made on Capitol Hill. None does it more (and few do it better) than that bastion of controversyâ€™s namesake paper, The Hill.
Now lots of outlets eagerly told us about a press conference held by House Republicans who denounced a meeting in the Capitol building led by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The GOP is certain that CAIR is some kind of terrorist front group, or at least apologists, and the Democrats seem generally sympathetic to that idea. So when conservative reps told the media they wanted to denounce CAIR, reporters flocked to get an earful.
For some reason, The Hill thought it was important to report this story and relay quote after quote from congress members frothing at the mouth over the apparently blasphemous meeting. One could consider it a public service that The Hill was exposing the ridiculous affair, except reporter Jackie Kucinichâ€™s article was mostly an exercise in stenography.
A good journalist would have tested the veracity of the criticsâ€™ statements. Thatâ€™s policy here at TNS, but itâ€™s something the mainstream media has shied away from more and more lately. It is imperative that reporters investigate claims made by sources. Itâ€™s not enough to just wrap the statement in quotes, attribute it, and then sit back and decide your job is done.
So in light of flippant assertions such as calling CAIR "a group with known terrorist ties" or saying "CAIR has repeatedly refused to condemn terrorist action by groups like Hamas and Hezbollah" â€“ the reporterâ€™s job is to do some research and see if the claims hold water. If they donâ€™t â€“ as in this case â€“ the choice is simple: either donâ€™t repeat them, or expose them as lies.
Itâ€™s not enough to quote from the slandered partyâ€™s mission statement. What Ms. Kucinich should have done was simply examine the claims of terrorist ties and find an example of CAIR condemning Palestinian suicide bombings (like Newsweek did). But for whatever reason, that basic tenet of good journalism was nowhere to be found.
In a rare Doghouse hat-tip, Iâ€™d like to direct you to a piece of relatively good journalism by the New York Times. Or you could read pretty much any major TNS article or our Contributorâ€™s Handbook (pdf) and see what we mean by "testing sourcesâ€™ claims."