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5 Media Fails of 2012

by Alex Gauthier, published

Another year has passed and a handful of notable media misreports along with it. One of the most prestigious journalists was caught plagiarizing another journalist’s work this year as well as one reporter's serious lack of fact-checking regarding the Aurora shooting.

Perhaps the most heinous of media misreports this year was not a single event at all but the consistently uncritical examination of the 2012 election process. This list of 5 media fails of 2012 reviews the more memorable media missteps of this past year.

Aurora Shooting


The mere coincidence that a Jim Holmes was registered with a Colorado Tea Party site led ABC’s Brian Ross to connect dots that shouldn’t have been connected:

“There is a Jim Holmes of Aurora Colorado page on the Colorado tea party sight as well… Now we don’t know if this is the same Jim Holmes but it is Jim Holmes of Aurora Colorado.”

In the days following the Aurora shooting, the public was eager to learn what could have caused Holmes to massacre 12 moviegoers and injure 59 others.

Without even a semblance of fact-checking, ABC’s award winning investigative correspondent announced on air that a likely connection existed between the Colorado Tea Party and the Aurora Shooter. Nothing could have been farther from the truth or less significant to bring up.

The blunder only resulted in Ross' brief on-air correction and a hilarious spot on the Daily Show.

Obama Care Supreme Court Decision

In another brazen example of jumping the gun before doing your homework, both CNN and Fox News were way off the mark when they announced that the individual mandate was found unconstitutional.

Although it could not be upheld under the Commerce Clause, compelling Americans to buy health insurance was indeed found to be constitutional if regarded as a tax.

The blunder even had President Obama himself convinced that the legislation, commonly referred to as Obamacare, was all for not. Both networks retracted their misreports shortly after turning the page and reading the rest of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision.

Fareed Zakaria

An article written by, or more accurately, mostly written by CNN’s senior foreign affairs expert, Fareed Zakaria, plagiarized work from Jill Lepore, a contributor for the New Yorker. A passage in Zakaria’s article, though not a word for word copy, was fairly obvious:

Zakaria - Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at UCLA, documents the actual history in Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America. Guns were regulated in the U.S. from the earliest years of the Republic. Laws that banned the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813. Other states soon followed: Indiana in 1820, Tennessee and Virginia in 1838, Alabama in 1839 and Ohio in 1859. Similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas (Texas!) explained in 1893, the "mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man." Lepore - As Adam Winkler, a constitutional-law scholar at U.C.L.A., demonstrates in a remarkably nuanced new book, “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” firearms have been regulated in the United States from the start. Laws banning the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813, and other states soon followed: Indiana (1820), Tennessee and Virginia (1838), Alabama (1839), and Ohio (1859). Similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas explained in 1893, the “mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man."

Consequently, Zakaria made a public apology and got a week-long time-out from his show on CNN, 'Fareed Zakaria GPS.' Since returning in August, there's been little mention of his foul up, and it seems the media has largely forgiven the misstep.


The ongoing crisis in Syria has routinely shocked American audiences with ghastly pictures and videos. The Syrian government’s stranglehold on media and infrastructure has made it excessively difficult for foreign reporters to see and understand exactly what is going on in the war torn country.

News outlets routinely resort to citing 'activists' with flimsy credentials to give at least some non-official account of events, yet the information coming from such sources is seldom verifiable. This has invited a simplistic and poorly informed conception of the conflict as the good protesters vs. Bashar al-Assad's evil regime.

No one can deny the brutality with which Assad has forced upon his people. However, the fact remains that western audiences have merely been given a glimpse into the real complexities surrounding Syria and the struggle for stability in the region.

2012 Presidential Campaign

Aside from the discrepancy between Romney's perceived competitive placing before the election and the resounding affirmation to the contrary shortly thereafter, the media's coverage of the 2012 presidential election failed on many fronts.

Perception and reality were shown to be two completely different things on November 6 when Obama secured the White House for another four years. Many conservative pundits had been convinced of Romney's victory shortly before a heavy dose of reality woke them up.

Unreliable polling data and unrelenting coverage of the 2012 election drew the country into one of the most expensive and widely watched horse races in American history.

Romney's position was largely overstated in the weeks and months leading up to election night, compelling onlookers to turn to their television screens for a photo finish. This was clearly not the case.

Only 47% of the popular vote and 206 electoral college votes went to Mitt Romney, a far cry from the 300 commentators like Newt Gingrich said he'd be likely to secure.

Similarly, the media overlooked or outright mocked third party candidates. In this sense the media spectacularly failed to give Americans an accurate account of the 2012 presidential elections.

Omitting and marginalizing legitimate candidates for the presidency severely distorted the issues facing the country and only fed into Democrat and Republican sponsored narratives.

Image credit: NS Newsflash

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