Sunday, August 21, 2016

Bad Journalism in CBS Coverage of Donald Trump

I am not a fan of Donald Trump, and both he and Hillary Clinton are too seriously flawed to receive my vote.  That said, bad journalism is still bad journalism, and today's example comes from

Under the headline "Philippines's brash President Rodrigo Duterte threatens to quit the United Nations" we find
President Rodrigo Duterte, dubbed the “Filipino Donald Trump,” pointed to the haunting image of a bloodied child being pulled from the rubble of a missile-struck building in the Syrian city of Aleppo to note the inability of the U.S. and the U.N. to stop such deadly conflicts, complaining that he comes under fire for the killings of criminals.
There is nothing in the story that actually links Duterte to Trump, we are just told that he has been "dubbed" the Filipino Trump.  We are not told who did the dubbing.  However, there is a link, reproduced above, which leads to the May 10 story "Filipino 'Donald Trump' president-elect shows his soft side".  This story also has nothing to do with Trump, his only mention (aside from the title) being here:
The brash Duterte, who has been compared to U.S. Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump, has threatened to close down Congress and form a revolutionary government if legislators stonewall his government.
Again we are not told who has made the comparison, our only hint (if it is one) being the link to "Commentary: Who might be Trump's VP?" by Will Rahn, the managing editor for politics at CBSNews' digital division.  That commentary, though, makes no mention of Duterte.  CBS News never actually attributes the comparison to anyone, but instead leaves the implication that comparison originated in off-the-record conversations about politics by their own managing editor. 

This is atrocious journalism.  If the comparison had been made by one of Duterte's domestic opponents, it might have been newsworthy; if it had been made by the State Department under Obama or the Clinton campaign, it might also have been worth including.  If it comes from a conversation around the water cooler at the offices of CBS News it is, at most, something to mention in a clearly-labeled commentary or editorial.  It is not worth mentioning at all if it remains unattributed, for two reasons:
  1. it makes it impossible for us to judge the objectivity and credibility of the source, and
  2. it makes it unclear whether the comparison was intended to create an impression of Duterte or to create an impression of Trump.

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