Fantasy Land Reporting

It’s an old maxim that in new reporting you confirm a story with two sources unless you want to engage in Fantasy Land Reporting.  When the subject of the report is someone the company or Establishment in general disapproves of, then anything goes.  The problem with this it is the veritable slippery slope.  Once you engage in Fantasy Land Reporting, there’s just no end to it.

We had this process a couple of months ago when Bernie Sanders refused to ride off into the sunset.  His tenacity and the passion of his followers was making it tough on Hillary who was prepared only for a smooth glide to the Democratic Party nomination.  So the press ignored Bernie as much as they could (it’s hard to ignore gatherings for Bernie’s speeches of 20,000+), they gave any Hillary accusation at Bernie a pass of fact checking while Bernie was held to a higher standard. Money and endorsements from almost all of the elected politicians dropped in her lap.  Bernie, after all, was the anti-Christ.

But he wasn’t

He just wouldn’t fade away and the Bern spread and spread.  So some of the establishment ratcheted it up a level.  And the funny thing was that this Fantasy Land Reporting was rewarded by all the rest who didn’t question the negative Bernie reports. To make Bernie pull a Duran more and more questionable tactics were employed including accepting as gospel anything assumed negative said or done by Bernie and his team.

Fantasy Land Reporting

Fantasy Land Reporting

By the time of the Nevada Primary it got worse.  Harry Reid, officially neutral until then, put his big thumb on the scales and got the unions in the state to work more vigorously (and get paid time off!)  Then the state party chairwoman made some controversial rulings definitely not neutral and Bernie supporters, feeling they were cheated, made noise.  In an effort to make the Bernie supporters seem violent and perhaps irrational reports came out by Jon Ralston of PBS that chairs were thrown that police had to intervene.  MSNBC bought it.  So did NBC and CBS and ABC and CNN.  Did any of them confirm Jon Ralston’s reporting?  Of course not.  When complaints were made the NPR ombudsman conducted an investigation.  Jon Ralston received his information second hand.  He wasn’t at the convention hall when chairs were allegedly thrown.  The video promised that allegedly showed the event never materialized.  In fact, on Rachel Maddow’s show, they used a video of chair throwing that had taken place at a wrestling event.  Months later the Bernie supporters were vindicated and NPR got rid of Jon Ralston.  MSNBC and CBS and NBC and ABC and CNN did not even offer an oops; they just ignored the Fantasy Land Reporting.

Fantasy Land Reporting

Fantasy Land Reporting

“The chair-throwing claim was repeated across election coverage. In an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow, Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz repeated, in concert with video footage of a man holding a chair aloft, the refrain that Sanders supporters had been throwing chairs at the convention:

The video shown during that segment was credited to the YouTube account of a “Bud Meyers,” but we viewed Meyers’ uploaded footage from the 14 May 2016 convention and were unable to locate the clip that included the image credited to him by MSNBC. The only relevant video we could locate on his YouTube account was a clip mocking (rather than confirming) the chair-throwing rumor:
The only intact footage that matched MSNBC’s claim and imagery shows a man of unknown affiliation briefly lifting a chair before placing it back down without throwing it:

The chair-throwing story was reported as fact not just by MSNBC but by news outlets such as the New York Times, the Associated Press, and CBS. MSNBC’s account opened as follows:

Thrown chairs. Leaked cellphone numbers. Death threats spewed across the Internet.

No, this is not the work of Donald J. Trump supporters, some of whom have harassed critics of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. It was angry supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders who were directing their ire at the Nevada Democratic Party — and its chairwoman, Roberta Lange — over a state convention that they think was emblematic of a rigged political system.

The Times‘s article also led with the claim of chairs thrown by violent attendees and included reports of chaos among the ranks of Sanders supporters:”

“Jon Ralston tweeted about the purported chair throwing activity despite having left the convention early, but he didn’t initially clarify that he was not an eyewitness to the alleged incident:

Subsequent tweets between Ralston and another reporter suggested that Ralston’s assertion about chair throwing was, at best, second-hand, as Ralston inquired whether the other reporter had obtained video of the event:

As far as we know, no video documenting such claims has yet surfaced, but coverage of the chair-throwing fracas continues unabated.

At least one outlet held their own reporting to account when Ralston’s came under question. NPR ran with Ralston’s second-hand assertion about thrown chairs, but their ombudsman later pegged Ralston (who did not witness the chair-throwing) as the sole source behind the widely-repeated claim and admitted that no evidence had been produced that anyone had thrown chairs:

[O]ther outlets, including The Associated Press, also reported that chairs were thrown … in the extensive video posted on social media in the aftermath of the convention I’ve so far found none of a chair being thrown. One video shows a chair being lifted in the air.

I asked Beth Donovan, NPR’s senior Washington editor, to respond to the concerns. She wrote, “Several members of our staff watched live video that showed a man brandishing a chair. Nevada analyst Jon Ralston, who was in the room and over time has been a very reliable source, reported that a chair was thrown. We okayed using and sourcing his reporting.” But, she added, “When Ralston’s reporting came under question, we adjusted our language,” by not repeating the word “thrown.” Instead, Keith’s report this morning referred to “physical skirmishes.” (It also quoted Nevada Sen. Harry Reid as referring to “violence,” which he did, indeed, do.)”

CounterPunch took an even more vitriolic approach to correcting the record:

Jon Ralston, the dean of political reporting in Nevada, has spread nothing less than a pack of lies about what went down at the state’s Democratic convention. No chairs were thrown at the convention.

Ralston reported live from the convention for most of the day, but decided to leave before tensions boiled over. Nevertheless, it was taken as a simple fact that he had observed Sanders supporters throwing chairs when “Roberta’s Rules” were enforced with finality at the end of the proceedings.

As it turned out, Ralston finally admitted that he hadn’t seen this himself but was relying especially on local reporter Andrew Davey. Davey first said he had still frames showing the chair throwing which he would publish. He has not produced the stills in question, but did retweet a still image of a chair held high that was initially posted on Reddit.

In spite of the fact that the whole thing was filmed live from multiple angles, no one has any images or video of even a single chair, let alone chairs plural, being thrown.

Rachel Maddow ran a deceptive clip on MSNBC saying chairs were thrown while reportedly showing footage of chairs thrown at a wrestling production. People on social media then insisted that networks had shown actual footage of chairs thrown at the convention. Maddow retreated only a bit by having Ralston on to say that even though he had not seen the chairs thrown, other eyewitnesses have told him the video is wrong.”

Fantasy Land Reporting

Fantasy Land Reporting

So now Ralston is reporting that the Bernie campaign tried to use a same headed coin on each side if the election came to a coin toss.  Somehow once again it is not confirmed by a secondary source this event of two months ago.  And they don’t use coins to decide ties in Nevada so Jon Ralston is not only claiming crookedness but stupidity.  New York Magazine and AOL have bought into the Jon Ralston story even after the scandal of his previous story on the matter. Relying on this Fantasy Land Reporting is the true crookedness and stupidity.

“Funniest part, as more than one person has reminded me, is ties were not decided by coin flip but by cutting cards!

Jon Ralston added,

Jon Ralston @RalstonReports

“..she instructed staff to buy double-sided coins — in case coin-flips were needed to decide any of the caucuses..” …”

About pulpdiddy

I've published an E-book (Neurotic Man), a hard copy book, (Dworb), produced movies (Woman of the Port and Liberty and Bash), and worked as a writer for Demand Media writing those ehow tidbits you've most undoubtedly seen. For many years I wrote business and marketing plans for service, retail and manufacturing businesses. Along the way I've also prepared tax returns, taught accounting, been a business start-up consultant, licensed arbiter, federal analyst, busboy, waiter, safety clerk, lighting salesman, restaurant manager, parking lot attendant, construction foreman, and cook.
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