Wednesday, March 30, 2011
How A Minor Story About Obama Turned Into a Controversial Internet Meme -- And Who's To Blame
Here's a story of Journalism circa 2011 -- and it's a depressing one.
My friend and colleague Joe Adalian took to Twitter yesterday to vent his frustration over one example of the modern distorted news cycle. In this case, it all started with a simple, innocent item about President Obama's iPad. By the time it was over, it had morphed into a made-up story about Obama cutting in line to grab an iPad -- and it had become an Internet meme thanks to NBC's Bay Area station, KNTV, which made a sloppy (and totally irrelevant) crack about Obama... which Fox News and the Drudge Report then ran with.
A blow-by-blow of how it went down, via Joe's Tweets (which are highlighted in yellow, with links added my me):
So yesterday, President Obama does a Univision town hall, reveals he has an iPad. Cute. Above, how CBSMarketWatch reported it (or read it here.)
All good so far. But CNN also reports. Says it's not sure if it's iPad 1 or 2. Notes iPad users are "selfish elites." (CNN piece above and here.)
A little wingnut bait, but OK. Here comes a Mac blog: It decides Obama has an iPad 2 & Steve Jobs gave it to him. (Above or here.)
Here's where things go south, fast: The NBC affiliate in San Francisco says it's an iPad and that Obama "cut in line" to get it. Really. (NBC Bay Area story above, or here.)
Sure enough, Drudge SLOBBERS all over that "Obama cuts in line" hed and posts a link (above).
I'm not sure if FoxNews.com saw Drudge or vice-versa, but FoxNews.com now has now ripped off first grafs of NBC report ( here).
So one innocent Obama remark about owning an iPad turns into "Obama gets special favors from Apple" meme-in-waiting. Really. This allows commenters on all sites to drool on about what a creep Obama is and make lame "there's an app for that" "jokes."
Obama may very well have called Jobs himself and gotten an iPad 2. Jobs might have sent him one, unrequested. But we don't know any of this. This is what happens when you lay off lots and lots of reporters, consolidate, and destroy local media. Among other things.
This is Mike again. I'll add that it's no secret that Apple hands out its product to movers and shakers (which is why folks like Disney/ABC's Anne Sweeney always have the latest gadgets) -- so should it really be any surprise that the Leader of the Free World was handed an iPad?
Another point: Presidents occasionally get little perks in the job. Movies are frequently screened at the White House -- a trend that dates back to Woodrow Wilson, who got an early look at "Birth of a Nation" in 1915. So... does that mean Wilson "cut in line" to see "Birth of a Nation" first? Ditto his successors? Sheesh.
Shame on NBC Bay Area (KNTV) for turning a non-story into a fake controversy that only fueled the flames. And for being so lazy about it to boot. Journalism 2011: Facts? Nah. Reporting? Who needs it. Responsibility? That won't generate web hits! Sigh.
UPDATE 3/31/11 6:33 pm: Just heard from NBC Bay Area/KNTV. They've corrected the story and taken down that headline. Perhaps a little too late, but at least there was some acknowledgement of their error.