A county commissioner meeting in Chattooga County, Georgia got a little sticky last week when the county commissioner’s wife poured a soda over a local reporter’s head.
Video of the incident suggests tension existed between the AllOnGeorgia.com reporter Casie Bryant and commissioner Jason Winters prior to the meeting. In fact, in the video, the commissioner’s wife, Abbey Winters, can be heard saying, “you deserved that,” immediately after the assault. And according to media reports, the night before the meeting, Bryant had commented on Facebook about Commissioner Winter's recent trip to Europe—saying “fresh off his trip to Paris, he’s ready to talk about the budget to the PUBLIC,” suggesting she planned to look into the commissioner’s foreign travel.
Yet, Washington Post staff writer Meagan Flynn sees something much more sinister at play. While detailing the incident for her story, and even describing the tension that existed prior to the assault, Flynn writes that…actually, it was all Trump’s fault.
The incident comes amid mounting concerns about hostility toward journalists starting at the highest levels of government, with President Trump’s frequent cries of “fake news,” and trickling down to local news.
Trump’s broadsides against the media, both at his rallies and on Twitter, typically come in response to critical reports that he does not like.
Maybe politics isn’t local anymore.
Or maybe it’s just a lot of fun to make your job look like it’s super dangerous and scary. Look, I get it. Who doesn’t want to pretend they’re a war correspondent or a reporter covering the mob or some sort of dodgy underground movement. Flynn clearly has the “dog bites man” beat at the Washington Post. Who can blame her for wanting to spice things up a bit.
Yet, Flynn is deceiving the public by making this weak association. This is why “fake news” resonates with so many Americans—because the mainstream media does churn out fake news. And Flynn is a good example of how it’s done, even when it comes to local news stories.
The facts are clear: this was a local reporter sniffing around a local official’s travel habits and most likely was hoping to produce a scoop on his misuse of local funds. Tension mounted and an assault happened—an assault with a non-deadly soda.
Of course, Flynn’s only pushing a narrative that’s considered acceptable in media circles. Consider this headline earlier this year at NBC Nightly News:
National Review’s Jim Geraghty examined that story and found that the report on which the article was based shows the exact opposite. He writes:
The headline over at NBC News is shocking…and the statement from Christophe Deloire of Reporters Without Borders certainly makes it sound like a combination of political leaders and religious extremism are threatening the lives of America’s reporters: ‘The hatred of journalists that is voiced…by unscrupulous politicians, religious leaders and businessmen has tragic consequences on the ground, and has been reflected in this disturbing increase in violations against journalists.’
But the information in the report is…considerably less shocking. Here’s the entirety of what the report says about the United States:
"The United States joined the ranks of the world’s deadliest countries for the media this year, with a total of six journalists killed. Four journalists were among the five employees of the Capital Gazette, a local newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, who were killed on 28 June when a man walked in and opened fire with a shotgun. He had been harassing the newspaper for six years on Twitter about a 2011 article that named him. It was the deadliest attack on a media outlet in the US in modern history. Two other journalists, a local TV anchor and cameraman, were killed by a falling tree while covering Subtropical Storm Alberto’s extreme weather in North Carolina in May."
What happened at the Capital Gazette did not involve unscrupulous politicians or demagogic religious leaders. It involved a long series of open threats from an unstable, rage-filled man and the decision to allow the shooter to plead guilty to stalking instead of harassment back in 2011. Had the shooter been convicted of stalking, his felony conviction would have prevented him from purchasing a gun.
A falling tree does not reflect “hatred of journalists,” unless Reporters Without Borders wants to argue that the tree aimed for those two unfortunate souls.
Similarly, the unhinged wife of some local politician pouring soda over a reporter’s head doesn’t reflect hatred of journalists. Reporting it that way sure does reflect poorly on Flynn’s trade though. The media must do better.