Ross, a veteran investigative reporter for ABC News, blew it Friday morning when he suggested that the Aurora, Colo., shooting suspect, Jim Holmes, might be connected with the "
"There is a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado, page on the Colorado tea party site as well. Talking about him joining the tea party last year. Now, we don't know if this the same Jim Holmes," Ross ominously informed
Or it might not.
Actually, it definitely isn't significant. The fiftysomething tea party Holmes, we soon learned, wasn't the same guy as the twentysomething mass-slaying suspect.
Brent Bozell of the conservative watchdog outfit the Media Research Center calls Ross' statement a "brazen attempt to smear the tea party."
And other conservatives, particularly tea party members, have every right to be angry. The list of calumnies and distortions about them is too lengthy to recount here. They've been cast as dangerous, racist, fascistic and murderous.
The most famous example is the seemingly instantaneous effort — ginned up by partisans but given ample credence by the mainstream media — to turn
That said, I still don't think Bozell & Co. are quite right when they see Ross' "reporting" as deliberate. For that, Ross would have needed to know what he was saying was untrue. I have to believe Ross didn't want to get the story wrong.
It would be nice to know if Ross checked to see if there were any Jim Holmes around Aurora who were connected to the
One possible answer is that even allegedly "objective" journalists follow certain narratives based on their own, unspoken ideological assumptions. When a Muslim shouting "Allahu akbar!" mows down colleagues at Ft. Hood or tries to blow up strangers in
But when a white non-Muslim shoots up a political rally or a movie theater, the media reflex is to prove their suspicions of sinister right-wing plots. Going with your gut can be great advice for sleuthing out stories, but awful guidance for reporting them.
Which brings us to Sorkin, the creator of HBO's
Sorkin accomplishes this in part by giving himself the benefit of hindsight, by setting "Newsroom" in 2010. Hence, when the Times Square bomber is apprehended, the news team congratulates itself by choosing to do the "boring version of the story" in which the "system worked" and the terrorist "acted alone" — something they couldn't possibly have known yet.
Meanwhile, the real story for Sorkin's fantasy journalists is exposing the pernicious threat of the tea parties (and their James Bond-villain backers, the Koch brothers) as they peacefully unseat incumbent
That's a great way to do journalism when you're playing make-believe and cherry-picking 2-year-old facts to suit your ideological agenda. It's quite another thing when you're a real reporter working in real time. Ross learned that lesson the hard way in what amounted to an audition for "The Newsroom." We can only guess at Ross' motive for his mistake, but if the media followed Sorkin's advice, we can be sure we'd see a lot more like it.