Pop quiz – if you were shooting a feature on Fake News, what journalist would you least like to see attached to the project?
If you said, “CNN’s Brian Stelter,” you’re not alone. Yet, amazingly, he’s the executive producer of just such a feature coming to HBO.
It’s one of two new documentaries attempting to capture journalism in the 21st century. Each looks unqualified for the task at hand.
“After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News” hits HBO in March. Here’s the pay network’s official description:
In the age of social media, this eye-opening documentary examines the rising phenomenon of “fake news” in the U.S. and the impact that disinformation, conspiracy theories and false news stories have on the average citizen. The film focuses on several high-profile made-up news stories in recent years with real world consequences, including the infamous “Pizzagate” case, the disinformation campaigns that influenced the 2016 presidential election, the Jade Helm conspiracy, and others.
Notice what’s missing? Dozens and dozens of false stories savaging President Trump over the past three years, not to mention the Russian collusion hoax.
Stelter’s participation in the project reads like a Babylon Bee entry. He’s the anti-Cronkite, epitomizing the far-left bubble modern journalists call home.
The project’s director, Andrew Rossi, previously helmed the fawning 2011 documentary “Page One: Inside the New York Times.” It’s another clue the documentary has little interest in the truth, let alone saving journalism from itself.
Remember, the very same biased media created the term “Fake News” to explain away Donald Trump’s presidential victory. The Commander in Chief quickly turned the phrase back on them.
The second project isn’t as cartoonishly concocted as “After Truth,” but it has potential to be nearly as embarrassing.
Journalist Ronan Farrow packs far more gravitas than Stelter, and he’s the key figure in a second HBO production. The untitled film finds Farrow investigating “threats, intimidation, and violence directed at journalists working to expose corruption and abuse by governments, corporations, and other powerful interests,” according to HBO.
“Around the world, journalists are under fire,” says Farrow. “They’re being spied on using new surveillance technology, imprisoned, even murdered. And we’re seeing evolving tactics deployed against reporters in the United States, too, against the backdrop of a new era of misinformation campaigns and rhetoric that seeks to undermine the very idea of objective reporting.”
Actually, objective reporting went the way of Pauly Shore movies, so pretending that isn’t the case is embarrassing. And will we be reminded of President Barack Obama’s war on journalists, from spying on the AP to “extensively” spying on Fox News reporter James Rosen?
The press release announcing the Farrow’s project trots out the hoariest cliché of the Trump era.
“Now more than ever [emphasis added], as evidenced by Ronan’s recent reporting, unbiased investigative journalism is both essential and under siege,” says Casey Bloys, president, HBO Programming.
That’s the same HBO that serves up a steady stream of biased content, including “Real Time with Bill Maher” to “Last Week Tonight.”
Yes, Farrow deserves every ounce of credit for helping bring down Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Farrow wouldn’t let the story go, even after NBC spiked it while its own accused sexual predator, Matt Lauer, lurked in its corridors.
Farrow’s Weinstein reportage epitomized the very best of journalism. Then, months later, Farrow trashed his booming brand by pushing ludicrous claims by Deborah Ramirez against potential Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Here’s The Federalist’s David Marcus:
…we have a woman, Deborah Ramirez, accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault, in a room full of people where nobody else who she says was in the room remembers the incident occurring, at a party that almost nobody can remember happening….Everyone Ramirez named in the room that has spoken disputes that the incident occurred. On top of all of this, Farrow admits in his piece that Ramirez was uncertain about the allegation at first, but after six days of talking to her attorney, the three decades-old memory returned to her.
Journalists make mistakes, but Farrow insisted he’s “proud” of that reporting.
How bad is modern media bias? Even hard-left stalwarts like Glenn Greenwald and Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi routinely call it out. They’re outliers, though. Journalists like Stelter prefer to promote Democratic talking points while ignoring the core elements of their profession.
We could use a documentary or two dedicated to Fake News and the steep decline in journalism. The chances either HBO project will do just that hover between slim (Farrow) and none (Stelter).