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Botched reports over Rosenstein fuel fake news

Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general, attends a confirmation

Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general, attends a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 4. Credit: Bloomberg / Andrew Harrer

As a former journalist who still believes in fair and accurate reporting, I am truly annoyed with the journalistic ethics lacking in today’s news cycle. Too often, journalists, commentators and media outlets are pressured to be first, rather than right. The immediacy of 24-hour news outlets and a social media world that never sleeps has created a culture of irresponsible journalism that gives credence to Trump’s infamous refrain: fake news.

On Monday morning, I received a news alert informing me that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was leaving his post. The headline read, “Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein RESIGNS before Trump can fire him.” The headline has since changed, but luckily screenshots are forever.

TV news outlets got into the action, too, as CNN justice reporter Laura Jarrett was first on the network to report exclusively that Rosenstein was heading to the White House to resign. The media whirlwind swirling around Rosenstein’s departure played out on Twitter in mass hysteria and confusion as a war of words played out on social and mainstream media.

Did he resign or was he fired? That all depends on which outlet you watched and when you watched it.

Once upon a time newsroom executive producers and editors, in their quest to be factual, would bite their nails in anxiety, making thousands of calls to confirm information before they went on air with breaking news. Often a competitor would be first to scoop them but in the world of journalism, getting it first took a back seat to getting it right. Now the need to be exclusive has overshadowed the duty to be accurate. The sensationalized headlines to accompany the hype confuses readers, voters and the American people, adding to an already volatile perception of the press. As much I hate to admit it, Monday it proved that it’s not all Trump’s fault.

More often than I’d like to acknowledge, his favorite criticism of the media as “fake news” rings true. Yet, despite the failure to apply Journalism 101 by most media outlets, political analysts like Mark Preston still found a way to blame the confusion on the chaos surrounding Trump’s White House, telling CNN’s Kate Bolduan, “For the last two years, we’ve all been confused by the Trump presidency.”

What does Trump have to do with any of this? The White House did not put out a statement about Rosenstein resigning or his status, but political pundits and national newspapers are now tripping over themselves to get the story right.

It pains me to my core to come across as if I am a Trump apologist, something I am most vehemently not. Trump’s racist, divisive and childish rhetoric and behavior is unfitting of any commander in chief. However, as a free and independent thinker, I do not tap dance to the left or to the right of politics. I believe in right is right, and wrong is wrong. And today, in the hoopla around Rosenstein’s status, Trump was right.

Rochelle Ritchie is a political analyst and former press secretary for Congress. She wrote this for