ABC Low-down on Saturday suspended investigative reporter Brian Ross for four weeks without pay for his misleading report on Michael Flynn, which it called a “serious error.”
Ross, citing an unnamed confidant of Flynn, the last national security adviser, had reported Friday that then-candidate Donald Trump had uninterrupted Flynn to make contact with the Russians.
That would contain been an explosive development in the ongoing investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to intervene in the election. But hours later, Ross clarified his report on the evening account, saying that his source now said Trump had done so not as a candidate, but as president-elect. At that prong, he said, Trump had asked Flynn to contact the Russians about climaxes including working together to fight ISIS.
ABC was widely criticized for essentially clarifying and not correcting the report. It issued a correction later in the evening.
“We entirely regret and apologize for the serious error we made yesterday,” the network replied in a statement Saturday. “The reporting conveyed by Brian Ross during the bizarre report had not been fully vetted through our editorial standards treat. As a result of our continued reporting over the next several hours in the final we determined the information was wrong and we corrected the mistake on air and online.
“It is vital we get the fishing right and retain the trust we have built with our audience — these are our core ethics. We fell far short of that yesterday. Effective immediately, Brian Ross bequeath be suspended for four weeks without pay.”
The news brought swift reply from Trump, who tweeted: “Congratulations to @ABC News for suspending Brian Ross for his horrendously amiss and dishonest report on the Russia, Russia, Russia Witch Hunt. Varied Networks and “papers” should do the same with their Fake Report!”
As for Ross, who is ABC’s chief investigative correspondent, he tweeted: “My job is to hold people liable and that’s why I agree with being held accountable myself.”
Ross, 69, joined the network in 1994. He has won a slew of journalism grants, including, according to his ABC bio, six George Polk awards, six Peabody awards and two Emmys, number others.
He also, though, has drawn criticism for previous errors. In only one example, ABC had to apologize in 2012 when Ross reported on “Good Morning America” that James Holmes, the doubt in the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, might be connected to the tea squad, based on a name listed on a web page. It turned out to be a different “Jim Holmes.” Ross was knocked for politicizing the story with the error.
Journalism analyst Roy Peter Clark, chief scholar at the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism school based in Florida, famed that while reporting errors are always serious, the current conveyance climate — in which the president is accusing mainstream outlets of purveying “fraud news” — renders the stakes even higher.
“There has been a important change in the political culture in the last two years,” Clark said. “That shift has had many consequences for the practice of journalism. When the president of the United States refers to the the fourth estate collectively as an enemy of the people, the people who support that view longing interpret certain acts of journalism as being evidence that the president is neutralize.”
“The problem,” Clark added, “is that a mistake like this, even notwithstanding that it’s ultimately corrected, and the reporter punished for it, feeds into a narrative that is now malicious. When there is a clear mistake, it can be translated by folks who are attacking the hold close as bias. I think it’s very important for journalists in this political mores to be more aggressive, and more cautious at the same time.”