CNN Pushes ‘Facts First’ with an Apple

It’s an apple, not a banana.

That’s what CNN is telling viewers in its new ad, “This is an apple,” which most likely is in response to President Trump’s repeated criticism of the cable news network as fake news.

The ad is getting lots of traction and national news coverage. For those who have not seen it, a graphic of an apple appears with the voice over: “This is an apple. They might scream banana, banana, banana, over and over again … but it’s not.” You get the point.

Interestingly enough CNN is having a good year despite repeated criticisms, beating MSNBC in total day for 40 straight months among adults ages 25-54, but still failing short to rival Fox News.

So, is the president helping CNN?

Controversy and conflict are main drivers of news, even when the news, well, is the “news.” All the hoopla around “fake news” is propelling people to watch, and news organizations like CNN to act.

The stakes are high. According to the 2017 Global Social Journalism Study, 51 percent of reporters feel that fake news is a serious problem in their area of journalism.

But if statements are made over and over again, even they are not true; does it actually become true, fostering doubt among reputable news organizations?

Maybe. A global survey from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found that only 38 percent of U.S. adults trust the news they consume. Pew also reports that Americans are divided along political lines when it comes to trusting media, and that only 28 percent of U.S. adults say general news outlets get the facts right about science almost always or more than half of the time.

Media have a credibility problem. But so does the president, with 65 percent of voters saying Mr. Trump is not trustworthy, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll.

Americans may never fully trust the media, and President Trump for that matter. CNN’s “Facts First” ad campaign is helping quell innuendo and improve reputations. Either way, trust is essential to effective government relations and media reporting on the country’s affairs.

Stories need angles, however, even if they contradict a point of view or collective opinion. That’s what makes news interesting. And given the country’s deeply divided electorate, trust may be more aspirational than reality.

Media Are People, Too

Americans and the press always seemed to have a love-hate relationship.

Despite much of the anti-media rhetoric at play within the national dialogue, a fairly good chunk of Americans (72 percent) trust the information they receive from national news organizations, according to the Pew Research Center.

The good news is more Americans are engaged. That means more eyeballs on traditional media, and social too. In fact, Pew also reported in a recent survey that two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) say they get at least some of their news from social media.

Conflict and human interest is what makes news. And in today’s highly competitive 24/7-news environment, getting the proverbial scoop is going to be good for both the journalist and their respective outlets.

Sgt. Chad Watts of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries holds Madelyn Nguyen, 2, after he rescued her and her family by boat from floodwaters of in Houston. Gerald Herbert / AP

So, when Hurricane Harvey rolled around, it’s no surprise that millions watched live coverage of the category three-storm barrel through the Gulf Coast. Homes being destroyed and acts of heroism provided much needed drama that kept viewers engaged.

It’s hard to say how far a journalist will go to get a good story. Many correspondents are often confronted with ethical dilemmas of interfering with their own reporting.

Veteran journalist Will Bunch touched upon this topic in a recent op-ed, The Day the ‘Enemies of the American People’ Helped Save America. The Philadelphia Daily News reporter wrote about those media who set aside their reporting to help rescue victims of Hurricane Harvey, while responding to repeated criticism of the press.

The fact is media are people, too. They have friends and families and experience life’s challenges just like everyone else.

No doubt the media landscape has changed dramatically. News outlets now cater to liked-minded audiences, fueling the country’s already tumultuous divide.

Be that as it may, media are essential part of documenting the pubic narrative. And yes, they don’t always get the story right. They’re human. They do, however, have editors and fact checkers to help ensure story accuracy. Let’s also not forget the journalist’s creed, a personal affirmation of ethical standards to “believe that the public journal is a public trust.”

While it’s easy to complain about the press, just think about what America would be without it.