When the media gets the facts in a story wrong, it is a great disservice to the public. Once a false narrative gets into the minds of the public it is very difficult to reverse. It is especially frustrating when repeated attempts to correct relevant facts in a story are acknowledged but those elements continue to get reported and repeated.
The most recent local example is the story regarding campaign signs, Rose Herrera’s husband, a videotape, dueling charges and two separate press conferences. So, let us set the record straight on some of the most important misreported facts of the story.
First, nobody in the Jimmy Nguyen campaign or the candidate himself was involved in any part of the alleged sign thefts and assault. (Full disclosure: I work on Nguyen’s campaign.) Many in the press led with the narrative that this was part of a “bitter” fight between Nguyen and Herrera. It was not.
The people involved are Matt Wahlin, Herrera’s husband, and Dustin DeRollo, a political consultant for an independent expenditure committee that opposes Herrera, and, by extension, supports her opponent. The Nguyen campaign did not know of the stakeout “gotcha” moment, the video or any part of the incident until Tuesday, when the story broke.
Why is this a relevant fact? Because the Nguyen campaign has purposely avoided the malarkey that comes with “gotcha” politics. Even as meritless complaints come forward against him, Nguyen has made the decision not to retaliate. The independent committees do not reflect his views and he cannot be held responsible for what they do. The same is true for Ms. Herrera, and Nguyen does not hold her personally responsible for the untrue allegations leveled against him by those groups.
The law prevents coordination between campaign and independent expenditure committees, and the fact is Nguyen has no control or responsibility for the actions of PACs. It should be a relevant fact in the news story.
Some news organizations said he was “unavailable for comment” or “could not be reached for comment.” Horse manure. Jimmy was and is available to the media. Their calls are the first he returns. His comment would have been, “This has nothing whatsoever to do with my campaign.”
This “news event” detracts from the substantive debate between the two candidates. But it is news and when these events occur, the press has a responsibility to report them.
There were news organizations that accurately reported the facts, but many in the media ignored essential details. It is important to note the standard for the media is accuracy, not truth. One can quibble with a headline or some language in the copy. But if a story is accurate, I have no complaint.
Facts matter, and when the media gets it wrong, it has an adverse effect on the public. It is because of my tremendous respect for the profession of journalism and those who do it well, that I was compelled to opine on this matter.
I don’t always agree with what is written, but real journalism is essential to a free society. A fact recognized since our nation’s inception.
Rich Robinson is a political consultant in Silicon Valley.