Quotes of the Day: Scandals and Wrong Reporting Not Impacting Obama Poll

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Our political Quote of the Day comes from Booman, of the must-read blog Booman Tribune, who notes that despite all of the controversy last week President Barack Obama hasn’t seen a drop in a big drop in his polling numbers — and in fact in one sees a slight increase. Booman’s headline asks if Obama is made of teflon and he writes:

If last week was the president’s worst week in office the polls show absolutely no indication of it. Perhaps that is because the president isn’t supposed to interfere in criminal investigations or direct the IRS’s decision-making process on tax-exempt applications. CNN seems somewhat baffled by the results of their polling, which join Gallup in showing a slight uptick in the president’s numbers. But it shouldn’t be that surprising. A majority of the people reelected the president and all they’ve seen since is stupid opposition and stupid reporting.

Stupid reporting?

Why, yes, you can make the case for that– but perhaps a bit more accurately it is almost negligent reporting. Booman is NOT just throwing the word around without some justification.

Every reporter at any level (and I was one overseas in India, Bangladesh and Spain in the mid to late 70s and then worked as a staff reporter on the Wichita Eagle-Beacon in Kansas and The San Diego Union, covering local stories and bigger ones such as Cubans in Arkansas, the Mexico City earthquake and Ronald Reagan’s immigration reform) KNOWS that sources often have ulterior motives if they leak information. Reporters know it, and handle it accordingly — as do their editors.

NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen has a MUST READ in FULL piece on his great media blog Press Think. It’s titled: ” Jon Karl got played by a confidential source and now ABC News has a big Benghazi problem,

Karl is the reporter who did the bombshell report on the the Benghazi emails which triggered one of threee crises to batter the Obama administration last week — emails that were later found to have been leaked to ABC by Congressional Republicans who didn’t leak the real info and in fact altered it to their political purposes (to get Obama). Here’s just a chunk of Rosen’s piece:

9. I had been following all this and last night I said on Twitter: “Jon Karl got played. But he refuses to admit it. Every ABC anchor who doesn’t ask him about it is complicit, too.” I was anticipating Karl’s appearance on ABC’s signature political program, This Week with George Stephanopoulos. He had appeared on May 12th, two days after his original report, to talk about Benghazi with guest host Martha Raddatz. There had been big news in the intervening week: the release of the original emails. I figured that ABC News would have him on again, if they believed so strongly in his original report. He is, after all, ABC’s Chief White House Correspondent; the story that dominated Washington all week was the re-emergence of a scandal narrative. A typical headline: Obama Pivots to Jobs Tour at End of Scandal Filled Week. (That’s from The Note, the politics blog at ABCNews.com, to which Karl is a major contributor.) Well, here’s the line-up for This Week with George Stephanopoulos. No Jon Karl. Instead, ABC News Senior Washington Correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

10. When a confidential source burns a reporter, a reporter is within his rights to burn–that is, “out”–that source. But it almost never happens because reporters are concerned that potential sources will take it as a sign that the reporter cannot be trusted to keep their names secret. That’s bad enough. But this is worse. Karl had a chance to limit the damage to ABC News from his faulty reporting when he first responded to [CNN's] Jake Tapper’s report. He blew that. Inexplicably, an ABC News spokesperson then doubled down on Karl’s original reporting: strike two. They had a chance to recover by asking Karl to explain how he got misled on This Week. They blew that when they chickened out and asked Jeff Zeleny to appear instead.

Rosen believes more than ever networks need ombudsmen:

11. None of the major networks–ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN–has an ombudsman. This is mystifying to me. They don’t seem to realize that since the rise of the Internet, their reporting is called into question far more easily and far more effectively. This case was especially likely to blow-up in ABC’s face once Jake Tapper’s report appeared online. When one reporter pisses on another reporter’s scoop, the first reporter enters a danger zone. The overwhelming temptation is to defend the story and treat the critique of it by another reporter as professional jealousy. A wise editor would intervene. (Attention: Rick Klein.) That did not happen. When the newsroom hierarchy fails, as it did here, the ombudsman can step in and force an accounting. But there is no ombudsman at ABC. #

And his conclusion?

Jon Karl has dragged the entire news division at ABC (and now George Stephanopoulos) into his self-dug pit. He got played. His colleagues at other news organizations know it. His friends at the network, were they real friends, would try to talk him out of this disastrous state of denial.

So if it isn’t quite stupid reporting it was negligent, sloppy reporting — the kind of error that a reporter named Howard Schmidlap covering City Hall at the Everytown Daily News in Anystate, USA would find would mean talk from his supervisor and correction. It would not help Howard’s career and his supervisor would take extra care to scrutinize his future work.

This seems to work less with big media stars…but Rosen (as always) is right: a reporter and his employer can’t just hope to move on and hope nobody notices in these days of the Internet. There is an increasing awareness by serious mainstream and serious new media reporters that in the olden days the media was manipulated by sources and maybe used by sources but today some sources are trying to get the media to lie for them and become political appendages in a 24/7 polarized 21st century world.

This means more checking.

More work. To get it right, not fast and wrong.

UPDATE: Here’s more news on the polling:

A new poll shows that recent scandals haven’t hurt President Obama’s approval rating.

The poll, from CNN and ORC International, found that 53% of Americans approve of the job Obama is doing, while 45% disapproved. This number remains virtually unchanged from polls taken before the scandals hit.

The poll was taken on May 17th and 18th, and has a 3% margin of error.

A CNN poll taken in early April showed Obama’s approval rating to be 51%. According to a Gallup poll taken in early May, the president’s approval rating was 50%.

The CNN poll also found that 71% of Americans find the actions of the IRS employees who targeted Tea Party groups to be unacceptable. However, 6 in 10 respondents said they trusted the president’s statements on the issue.