Brian Ross is not "the Media"

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 23 2012 9:36 AM

Brian Ross is not "the Media"

The key line in Dylan Byers's quick piece on Brian Ross comes early on, right after we re-learn how Ross actually went on air to speculate whether a "Jim Holmes" on a Colorado Tea Party site was the killer James Holmes. "No other media touched" the report, writes Byers. He quotes Glenn Greenwald on Ross:

His reporting philosophy seems to be to go on TV and say whatever he thinks will garner attention and create ‘scoops,’ without the slightest concern for whether it’s actually true.

Yeah, and this is why the outrage over Ross's on-air smearing of an innocent man is hard to apply to "the media" as a whole. Ross is interested in scandal, not partisan teams. Who plumbed the sermons of Jeremiah Wright to find material that nearly defeated Barack Obama? Brian Ross. Who took point, publicly, on an ABC story about Mitt Romney's offshore money? Brian Ross. The Tea Party anger, which is real, is really directed at one show-boater.

James Taranto argues that it should be directed at a cultural bias.

It is reasonable to interpret Ross's hasty unsubstantiated report as an expression of hostility--bigotry--toward the Tea Party and those who share its values, which are traditional American ones. ABC's carelessness here is in sharp contrast with the way the mainstream media treat criminal suspects who are black or Muslim. In those cases they take great pains not to perpetuate stereotypes, sometimes at the cost of withholding or obscuring relevant facts such as the physical description of a suspect who is still at large or the ideological motive for a crime.

Again, this assigns too much credit to a scandal-hungry, bumbling Ross. He wasn't the only reporter (or blogger) hunting online for any political information about Colorado-based "James Holmes." asked whether he was the "James Holmes" who was registered as a Democrat in California, and later retracted the question. Multiple blogs asked whether Holmes had gone to any Occupy gatherings. And it was fair to ask! Ross's mistake was going on the air with his speculation.


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