Media Analysis: “So Rumor Qualifies as News Now?”
For a profession so obsessed these days with the proliferation of “Fake News,” you’d think they’d know it when it comes up and smacks them in the face. Apparently not, because Monday saw a number of national and Wisconsin-based news outlets go into a tailspin based solely on the words of one the most partisan Democrats working today.
During a Monday morning news conference Congressman Mark Pocan (D-Black Earth), commented on how “the latest rumor and speculation among Democrats” was that if President Donald Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, withdrew or was not confirmed, the White House would then pick Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for the job.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan says that fresh rumors began to circulate in Washington last week that Walker could be interested in the job of Labor secretary if Trump’s nominee Andrew Puzder is not confirmed. His hearing has been postponed multiple times.
Pocan says the rumors caught on after Walker talked about labor issues with Vice President Mike Pence and after when engaged in a Trump-like Twitter battle with Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants (Carl’s Jr., Hardees, and other fast food franchises), has had his hearing postponed a number of times as he works on a way to legally divest himself from his business ties to meet government ethics rules.
For his part in “seeking the truth,” Pocan offered no proof to his rumor. Instead, he only told reporters that it “makes sense.” That was apparently enough to set off a firestorm of speculation regarding the future of Governor Walker; one which many thought had been settled months ago. So instead of previewing the state budget, the governor was forced to comment on something which even the source of the “news” had no actual proof of as the state press corps decided to “Run with it!”
And run with it they did. Within moments of Pocan’s news conference the state Associated Press, Wisconsin State Journal, Fox 6 in Milwaukee, and numerous other media outlets all ran articles on Pocan’s rumor; sight unseen.
What makes the rumor regarding Walker joining the Trump cabinet all the more surprising is how sudden it appeared. Yes, there was some initial post-election speculation of Walker joining Trump’s Cabinet around mid-November, but it was put down almost immediately by Walker himself.
Scott Walker: The Wisconsin governor would be labor unions’ worst nightmare. In 2011, Walker signed a bill that removed collective bargaining rights for most of Wisconsin’s public sector employees. In 2015, he signed into law a right-to-work bill. We heard that Walker was in contention for DOL, but that he told the Trump scouts he isn’t interested.
So where the rumor came from raises a whole nothing level of speculation. Was it, as David Freddosso of the Washington Examiner writes, meant to be a way to weaken Walker as he prepares his latest state budget, and in all likelihood, another re-election bid in 2018? Because prior to this rumor coming out of Pocan’s lips, no one had ever heard it before, or even seen it in print.
Again, based on a search of all sources in Lexis-Nexus, this is literally the first mention of this rumor in print. It’s coming from one of Walker’s most bitter political rivals [Pocan], who would love to see Walker weakened right now, and who apparently wasn’t asked where he had heard the rumor in the first place.
There was a time in American journalism that those making or passing along rumors were the ones who had to provide provide of their viability. The fact that so many reporters on Monday never pressured Pocan to produce proof to what he was saying is only one of a number of reasons the country’s faith in media organizations has fallen as low as it has.
How does so much “Fake News” get produced in American journalism these days? Maybe because it’s just too easy to make.