If you are a consumer of much news in this country, you probably have already read or heard multiple headlines about this:
President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday claimed credit for bringing 8,000 new private-sector jobs to the United States, including 5,000 that he says telecommunications company Sprint Corp. will relocate back from "other countries."
What you may not have seen beyond those headlines is that it's false. Trump didn't have anything to do with the plan to create those 5,000 jobs; it was announced in April of 2015, before Trump had even descended his golden escalator to announce his bid for president. Unless our dear pumpkinführer has also invented the time machine, it didn't happen. So why the hell is this still so hard for actual news editors to get right?
Here's the headline blasted by the Washington Post: “Trump touts thousands of new jobs in deal with SoftBank CEO.” Agreed, that's what the powerful political figure said. But without the caveat that at least 5,000 of the jobs he's talking about provably have not a damn thing to do with him, it serves only to promote the false, Trump-preferred version under the Post’s own authority.
The New York Times went with “Trump Takes Credit for Sprint Plan to Add 5,000 Jobs in U.S.”; again, this is indeed what he said—but you'll have to wait for the third paragraph for the caveat that Sprint had announced the plan before Trump's magical staircase ride. The third paragraph isn’t going to appear in your newsfeed, only the part where he “takes credit” for the plan.
The capper, though, was this gem caught by Oliver Willis. Go on, guess the "news" source.
Trump declares victory: Sprint will create 5,000 U.S. jobs
That would be CNN, the network that is to news what Trump is to sound government. And like the others, the report itself indeed qualifies Trump's "victory" later in the piece—but if it's just another headline running down your Twitter or Facebook feeds you'd never know that.
So here's the question, again: Why the hell is this still so hard to get right? You've got a politician known for telling egregious falsehoods. You've got reporters on staff smart enough to look up his claims and at least give a hint or two that they may indeed be either embellished beyond reason or simply wrong. And you know, because you are a trained news person doing trained news things, that headlines can be used to boost political lies, rather than curb them.
And yet time after time, editors are slapping "Trump says" or "Trump claims" on one of his blatherings and passing them on unhindered by fact. It's embracing the misinformation, and broadcasting the misinformation over the truth. Anyone who only skims the headlines will believe the untrue version.
Who got it right, this time? Politico went with “Trump touts previously announced Sprint, OneWeb hiring pledges.” There ya go; right in the headline it indicates that there's something a little fishy with the Trump claim. It's just as terse, and is still painfully polite to the powerful man spouting bullshit. It's still no Trump lies about job creation, takes credit for Obama-era plans but it at least doesn't tout the propaganda version to the exclusion of the true version, as done by nearly every other major outlet.
It's still baffling why the political press is so very bad at two of its ostensibly most important jobs; reporting the truth, and holding officials to account for their claims and actions. They're freaking terrible at it. They're god-awful at it. They seemingly are completely stumped by politicians who outright lie to them, even though that should be among the easiest possible stories to cover and among the most important to the public. We can speculate as to just how and when that happened, but we are where we are—and the current press spends the vast majority of its time reporting what powerful people say, and very little energy on determining whether or not it was true.