Wisconsin Special Prosecutor Francis Schmidt has now said the documents about Governor Scott Walker were ‘taken out of context.’ He says Governor Walker is not the subject of a criminal investigation.
Why do I write the above? Because last week many in the media were reporting that Governor Scott Walker was accused of a crime and then making a big deal out of it. It was some of the dumbest reporting I have seen and shows how lazy some journalists can be (some just copied others!)
If any journalist had gone to the original documents (not copied what he or she read on the internet or heard others say and run with it), done a minimum amount of research and made a call to a Wisconsin lawyer to learn just a tiny bit about the law, he or she would not have been so dumb. It doesn’t take much. It just takes doing the minimum.
And if that had happened, Governor Walker would not have had to go out and defend himself — which to many makes one look guilty. Even the innocent look guilty when defending himself or herself.
Compounding the damage from lazy journalism, is that false accusations sit on the internet forever and that’s not fair. Each media outlet who got this wrong (or got it wrong for any other politician) should make sure to correct it so it sits also corrected on the internet. That would be the right thing to do (and of course that includes false accusations of crimes lodged against any politician.)
We need to be tough on our politicians — ask probing and smart questions and you can even do that politely — not smear them. This doesn’t mean we will always get it right but at least we in the media could look like we are trying to get it right.
So …black mark for the media on this one. Accusations of criminal conduct, not just bad conduct, but criminal conduct are the worst. (And yes, I told you so — both on Special Report and ABC This Week…this one was a no brainer…it just took doing one’s job.)
PS – If it comes to pass that the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit reverses the trial court Federal Judge who said the conduct at issue is NOT even a crime had it been proven, and if then an investigation leads to Gov Walker, then that will change the story, present new facts that should be reported. But in the meantime, journalists should get it right. It would not have taken much to get this one right.
FROM LA TIMES:
“At the time the investigation was halted, Gov. Walker was not a target of the investigation,” Crocker said. “At no time has he been served with a subpoena.”
Crocker said the documents that were made public were never designed to be released and outlined a prosecutor’s theory.
“In recent days, the documents and the allegations contained within have received significant media coverage,” said Crocker. “Contained in the documents is a reference to the request for production of documents that relates to an alleged criminal scheme. Gov. Walker’s name was included in this reference.
“While these documents outlined the prosecutor’s legal theory, they did not establish the existence of a crime; rather, they were arguments in support of further investigation to determine if criminal charges against any person or entity are warranted.”