There’s a difference between fake news and false reporting.
I had the privilege of covering Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s town-hall meeting on Feb. 9. National reporters covered the meeting, and videos of the protests at Brighton High School flooded the internet.
Covering something of this scale was intimidating.
After the meeting, I began to write, taking my time to make sure I got the story right. That’s the importance of journalism—even for a publication the size of The Forum.
As I finished my story, larger publications began to publish their work. They all described what I saw. Later the next day, KSL published an article titled ‘Chaffetz: Town hall attendees were 'paid attempt to bully and intimidate.’
The headline has become a theme in the news recently, and how it’s covered has far-reaching implications.
KSL covered two false statements Chaffetz made during his post-meeting interviews. The first was his claim that protesters were paid to attend the town-hall meeting.
KSL printed a quote from Chaffetz saying he believed the protesters were paid. But when asked who would have paid them, Chaffetz didn’t have an answer.
The news organization did not handle Chaffetz’s second false statement as well.
“‘And I did hear them, but it was hard to hear through all the shouting and yelling,’ including, [Chaffetz] claimed, during the Pledge of Allegiance,” according to the article.
This quote from Chaffetz is not only false but also a flat out lie. I was at the meeting. I listened to numerous recordings of the Pledge of Allegiance, and no one shouted for the duration of the pledge.
What KSL wrote next told only part of the truth.
KSL wrote, “A video of much of the Pledge of Allegiance posted on Facebook appears to show some members of the audience shouting at the end of the pledge, mostly emphasizing the last few words "indivisible, with liberty and justice for all" and then cheering afterward.”
This is where KSL got it wrong. They left room for people to believe Chafetz’s lie.
Whether this story should have been covered or not is no question. Chaffetz made two completely false statements with no proof or evidence to back them up. But the way KSL covered the second lie did not discredit Chaffetz like it should have.
The fact that he told a lie is expected in today's political climate. How media outlets cover these lies is important.
Any student of journalism knows that one of a newspapers functions is to hold our government responsible. In this instance, KSL did not serve its function as a news organization.
The question now becomes why KSL would diminish this issue as much as it did.
KSL is owned by Bonneville Broadcasting, an extension of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church). The Church has made it clear that it supports the Republican party; the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed at Donald Trump’s inauguration. This conflict of interest may be preventing KSL and its subsidiaries from conducting fair journalism.
After multiple attempts, KSL could not be reached for comment for this story.