William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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A BIT OF HOPE AT CNN:  There are signs that the failing "first name in news" is finally recognizing its problems and trying to correct them.  But the path is long.  From Newsbusters: 

CNN offered another clue Monday morning into how a properly-run CNN under Discovery and boss Chris Licht might look as New Day introduced a new segment called “Upon Further Review” to reexamine stories that, once facts emerged, showed something was different than the initial narrative. With the ever-pompous John Avlon at the helm, the first installment touched on the debunked claims of racist taunts from Brigham Young University fans to a Duke women’s volleyball player.

Having promoted the story herself, co-host Brianna Keilar began by informing viewers that “[t]wo weeks after a Duke volleyball player alleged she was called racial slurs during a game against Brigham Young University, an investigation into the incident found no evidence to corroborate the report.”

Avlon took over and said he’d be “starting something a little different” (versus his smug “Reality Check” lectures) called “Upon Further Review” that would provide “updates” on “the initial official version of the story once more facts come in.”

He explained that the incident at BYU put volleyball at “the front of the outrage Olympics two weeks ago when a Duke starter named Rachel Richardson make the explosive accusation.”

Noting that Richardson received support from “stars like Lebron James” as “the country rallied around her” (which was dubious to suggest), Avlon conceded “her family appear[ed] here on CNN, amid some 65 separate articles” in the press “about the controversy” and it resulting in the University of South Carolina cancelling a lady’s basketball game against BYU.

Avlon then said BYU “offered a wholehearted apology” and “banned a fan who had been identified as making the racist slurs,” but still “launched an internal investigation.”
As a result, however, Avlon said “that’s where the narrative started to fall far short of the initial indignation” as BYU found zero evidence to corroborate Richardson’s tall tale after having “review[ed] all available video and audio recordings and reaching out to more than 50 folks who attended the game, including Duke personnel and athletes.”

Avlon argued that while “healthy skepticism is always a virtue…this doesn't read like a cover-up” as opposed to “a rush to judgment because of a well-intentioned impulse to believe the Duke player's accusations.”

What Avlon wouldn’t admit was those defending Richardson indeed wanted the racist slurs to be true in order to further their preferred narratives about humanity or, more specifically, those that lean conservative (such as Mormons).

“Now, we need to note that the investigation does not call Rachel Richardson a liar or a fabricator. It leaves open the possibility that she sincerely believed that she heard repeated racial heckling and that some sort of misunderstanding occurred,” he added, as if to offer an olive branch.

Moments after saying “facts always have to come first,” Avlon came back to argue that, when more facts come to light, both journalists and the public should “acknowledge it and adjust,” no matter the topic.

He then concluded with more sage advice:

"Fidelity to the facts is all that we as journalists and citizens should ask. It's understandable that there's a desire to believe people when they say they've been victimized, but the accusations have to be backed up by facts and when the facts don't fit upon further review, we need to set the record straight with as much intensity as the initial reports."

Exit question: How much do you think Avlon and his CNN colleagues will apply this to conservatives, Republicans, and former President Trump?

COMMENT:  Well, it's a start.  But even if CNN is saved from disgrace, it will not guarantee any improvement in even more important "news" networks, like CBS, NBC, ABC and newspapers like The New York Times and Washington Post.  We can hope for the best, but one can seriously wonder whether some of the "leaders" in journalism are beyond redemption, and whether new organizations will be needed to replace them.

September 12-13, 2022