Origin of Mistrust

Associated Press Jul 01, 2017

A lot of people claim we’re in the post-truth era. Or, that the media is worse than it’s been in the past. I don’t believe that. I think the big difference, now, is that we see the media for the web of lies it is.

So, I wanted to tell you why I dislike the media. It’s not a new phenomenon, at all. My origin of distrusting the media started 10 years ago. There were two stories that came out in 2007.

In 2007 Paris Hilton was big news. Everything she did was newsworthy because she was Paris Hilton. Personally, I was sick of the constant Paris news. However, the AP did something that bothers me to this day. On May 1st, 2007 Paris Hilton received a ticket. But, the real news was the AP’s story.

So you may have heard: Paris Hilton was ticketed the other day for driving with a suspended license.

Not huge news, even by celebrity-gossip standards. Here at The Associated Press, we put out an initial item of some 300 words. But it actually meant more to us than that.

It meant the end of our experimental blackout on news about Paris Hilton.

It was only meant to be a weeklong ban — not the boldest of journalistic initiatives, and one, we realized, that might seem hypocritical once it ended. And it wasn’t based on a view of what the public should be focusing on

. . .

No, editors just wanted to see what would happen if we didn’t cover this media phenomenon, this creature of the Internet gossip age, for a full week. [Note: it was actually about 2 and a half months, if started on February 19th.]

. . .

The reaction was to the idea of the ban, not the effects of it. There was some internal hand-wringing. Some felt we were tinkering dangerously with the news. Whom, they asked, would we ban next? Others loved the idea. “I vote we do the same for North Korea,” one AP writer said facetiously.

What were the results?

They could successfully remove someone from the news. There was a brief resurgence in May and June. But, the summer of 2007 was the last time she was a major part of the news.

The AP proved that they could control the narrative. They did it publicly. Why wouldn’t they do it with other topics?

The second story came out a few months later and involved actual fake news. In August of 2007 Rossiya (a Russian TV network) distributed images a submarine near the arctic shelf. Reuters distributed the story worldwide. But, there was a slight problem (from ABC Australia):

In an apparent attempt to “sex up” a news programme, the TV station has been caught passing off footage from the 1997 Hollywood blockbuster Titanic as a real life report on the Kremlin’s recent attempt to stake its claim to the riches of the Arctic Ocean.

. . .

The Titanic movie images were distributed around the world by the Reuters agency.

And that’s how they wound up on news bulletins on the ABC, Channel Ten and Channel Nine

. . .

The story also contains video of a submersible which was shot during the search for the Titanic in the Atlantic.
File identifiers were inadvertently left off the story. — Reuters online, Russia plants flag under N Pole, 2nd August, 2007

But that apology from Reuters isn’t right.

Some scenes in Titanic were the real pictures of Russian MIR submarines diving near the ship.

But others, including the most spectacular shots, were made using miniature models of the subs shot in a studio full of smoke.

So, the AP and Reuters were both problematic in 2007. I was young then, so I didn’t know about the history of “journalism” in the US. But, those two stories pretty much shattered the illusion for me.