By Dean Close, Vinton Today Editor
First of all, where I am coming from: I am not, and never have been a fan, follower or defender of Fox News. So, please to not interpret the following paragraphs to be any kind of defense of Fox.
However: I am also a journalist who gets offended when people in media — especially national networks — get things wrong that are so basic they should have learned them in high school journalism class.
Today’s example comes from NPR, specifically from NPR writer David Folkenflik.
On his Twitter account, he announced on Wednesday morning that he is preparing to discuss “Fox News, fake news and the White House.”
On Tuesday, Folkenflik wrote one of the first stories about the lawsuit filed on behalf of Fox contributor Rod Wheeler. (See that story HERE).
My problem with the story is that in the second paragraph of a very long report, Mr. Fokenflik makes a claim that he knows — or should know — to be entirely false: “The suit was obtained exclusively by NPR.”
We need to stop right there.
Court filings of any kind become public record, after they are filed; see an explanation of this basic journalism fact on the Duke University web site HERE. Court filings, including the lawsuit against Fox, are not “exclusively obtained” by anyone. Any media organization, or citizen, can have access to any court filing, at any time during business hours; most current records are available online, anytime.
Claiming that NPR has “exclusive” access to a public record is one of the wildest, most ridiculous, most arrogant and insulting claims any media company could make. It implies that the media organization is smarter, and has more “ins” with government, than a regular non-media citizen.
The rest of Folkenflik’s story — about a lawsuit filed by a man who was fired from the NYPD after testing positive for marijuana, and represented by a lawyer who has sued Fox News several times — contains many details about this “explosive” claim that Fox worked with the White House to create a false news story.
I would tend to believe Folkenflik’s story. It sounds, to me, like something Fox and President Trump would do.
But how much trust does a writer who claims his media company has “exclusive access” to a public record deserve? Someone with as much education and experience as Folkenflik should know better — especially when writing about what he calls “Fake news.”
The only way that Folkenflik could have had “exclusive access” to that information was to receive a copy from the plaintiff (or his lawyer) before it was filed. And if that happened, it would raise all kinds of questions about what kind of deal the writer made.
Either way, NPR, while writing about “fake news,” just gave media critics (who are often wrong) one very good reason to be skeptical.
Just in case NPR reads this and retracts the statement, look at the screen shot below: