On Jan. 18, a story of young men from Covington Catholic High School harassing an elderly Native American man swept the internet, all because of a misleading video.
The media was quick to jump on the story, condemning the students before much information had surfaced. The victim, 64-year-old Nathan Phillips, stated in an interview that the students from the high school blocked him from marching to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, his final stop in his Indigenous Peoples March. As he tried to make his way through the crowd, he said that the teens chanted “build that wall.”
But on Jan. 20, the full video of the incident was released. In the footage, none of Phillips’s story is corroborated. Phillips’s claims that the students had blocked him in and yelled racist chants at his group were false.
The full two-hour-long video of the event showed the true story. In it, a group of black men identifying themselves as Hebrew Israelites began shouting racial slurs at the young men and other passersby. This included Phillips and members of the Indigenous Peoples Rally.
A statement released by Nick Sandmann, one of the Covington Catholic High School students, stated that the students were trying to drown out the hateful words of the Hebrew Israelites by yelling school chants. It was at this time that Phillips entered the crowd, banging his drum and chanting.
This is where that infamous picture of the supposed “standoff” between the student with a MAGA hat and Phillips came from. No words were spoken between the two, and the only jeers to be heard were from the Hebrew Israelites.
Clearly, the Hebrew Israelites were the ones at fault in this debacle. But by the time Sandmann’s statement had been made, everyone had formed an opinion on the matter, and media outlets only half-heartedly corrected their mistakes.
Unfortunately, this isn’t an anomaly. In the same weekend, Buzzfeed released a report that President Trump told Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about his business plans in Russia. Yet again, this story spread like wildfire in spite of its less-than-credible details. Robert Mueller, the lead investigator for the case on Trump’s ties to Russia, condemned the report as false.
Sadly, little is being done by media outlets to correct these egregious mistakes. Ben Smith, editor-in-chief at Buzzfeed, says he stands behind the journalist whose report on Trump-Russia ties had been debunked. Why stand behind a journalist whose work is not accurate?
In these two examples, it’s clear to see that the media has chosen to promote an agenda over accurate reporting — this leads to lies flooding the news cycle. Truth should be at the forefront of every news outlet, and larger outlets should thoroughly check sources to protect their reputation — something that was not a priority in the Covington Catholic High School story.
Even further, this inaccuracy drives attention away from major issues. Almost lost in the news cycle over the weekend were bills set for voting in Congress to reopen the government. This issue holds more weight in the country, considering thousands of Americans have been affected by the recent shutdown.
It’s no wonder a vast number of Americans elected Trump and support his #FakeNews platform. The inaccuracy of major media outlets is exhausting. What should the average person believe? We rely on our news outlets to give accurate, up-to-date information.
If major media outlets can’t produce accurate content, people will turn off the news and stop engaging in the political world. This is the last thing we need in a country so polarized by political ideology — a dialogue of honesty and truth must start at the source: the media.