One of our burning questions in life is whether we believe President Donald J. Trump called fallen soldiers in World War I and the Vietnam War losers and suckers.
Many of you believe the story. Many of you don’t.
Many hope the story is not true because you are fond of Trump. Many of you hope its true so you can put another dagger into Trump.
Trump calls stories like this fake news. Atlantic Editor Jeffrey Goldberg stands by his story and other media outlets have collaborated his report. Let’s get real today about fake news. The fake news Trump riles about is probably accurate 85-95 percent of the time. The other 10-15 percent is probably exaggerated or fabricated.
I never believed that Trump is a proponent of the First Amendment, which protects freedom of the press among other things. He’d rather govern without this watch dog looking over his shoulder. He cannot get rid of the press. He cannot have a press that rubber stamps his every move. So he does the next best thing. He uses his bully pulpit to denigrate reporters, weaken the press and create distrust from the public.
If a reporter writes a story and you don’t believe it, what good is it?
Reporters do not wake up in the morning with the intent of making up stories. It does happen, but when you are writing about high profile subjects and institutions it makes no sense to. One of your colleagues will see through the lies and call you out. It is not work the grief of putting a story out in public if it is made up.
During my 32 years in the media I worked under the assumption that the first time I made something up would be the last time. I’d be fired.
Journalists also have this working against them. The public wants to believe its organizations, politicians and institutes. It roots against reporters. The public is also less inclined to believe a story with unnamed sources. So why do we do it? It’s because the reporter or news organization believe the story is important enough and using unnamed sources is the only way to make it public.
I never wrote for The Washington Post or New York Times which are two of the gold standard news organizations. I proudly did my thing in my hometown of Detroit. In 32 years of writing I never made up a story. I never had a colleague in the business fess up of making up a story to me.
That’s nothing to brag about. That should be expected. Our job is to report the news as accurately as possible and earn the trust of our readers. We were discouraged from using unnamed sources at The Detroit News. The few times I did I had to go through an uneasy process.
I never had to reveal my source to the public, but I had to name the source to one of my editors who determined if the story would go public. I never liked doing that for fear that the editor might tell somebody and through word of mouth the source would be revealed and never talk to me again. There was also the fear of being shut out by the organization, players and coaches.
The dirty secret about journalism is it is a people business. We get scoops based on relationships with sources and the organization. We don’t get our stories by putting on grease paint and sneaking through the bushes in the dark of night.
Our relationships with sources are based on hand shakes, pleasant smiles, lunches and drinks after work. My sources knew the inner workings of an organization or person and mostly gave out accurate information.
But they did not know everything. Sometimes they missed part of a meeting or misinterpreted something that was said or done. They may tell me a story that is mostly accurate with some details missing or wrong. That is why we try to get a second source if possible. Or I tried like hell to get somebody on the record.
It became very difficult to find sources on or off the record to give you dirt when things are going well. People did not want to make a well running machine look bad or weaken it. However, sources came out of the wood work when they did not respect management or believed the institution was headed in a wayward direction.
They believed leaks helped the product or prevented it from making dangerous or wrong decisions. Then sources came out of the woodwork like roaches.
Trump should not be mad at the media. He should be upset with the people working for him who leaks information.
Now do I believe that four people told Jeffrey Goldberg that Trump called soldiers losers and chumps? Yes.
Does it mean that it is the gospel truth? No.
But it probably is.Find Terry Foster Podcast here: