The Media's BuzzFeeding Frenzy: Tracking the Cohen Story

The Washington Post described the strange events of last week best: “BuzzFeed and ‘if true’: The day when no one knew anything.” Thursday evening BuzzFeed broke the bombshell story that, according to two anonymous law enforcement sources, the special counsel’s office had hard evidence that President Trump had ordered his lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. The story broke like a tsunami across the media landscape, with news outlets around the world blindly parroting a story that none could confirm. Rather than wait until they could verify the basic elements of the story, outlets ran story after story that, “if true,” BuzzFeed’s scoop would mean the end of Trump’s presidency. When Fox News chose not to report a story it couldn’t verify, it was roundly criticized. Looking back on how the media covered BuzzFeed’s purported scoop, we are reminded that the media’s prioritization of speed over accuracy is one of the reasons it has lost so much credibility.

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