Is the criticism of the media over their coverage of the Mueller investigation justified?

By Alexander Heller

Just as we journalism majors were enjoying some much needed downtime during spring break, the Special Counsel’s office of Robert Mueller III decided to end its nearly two year investigation into whether or not Donald Trump and his campaign colluded with Russia to sway the 2016 election into his favor. As the Special Counsel was gathering evidence and indicting 34 individuals, the answer as to whether or not Russia attempted to influence the 2016 election was an unequivocal yes throughout the Justice Department, the Intelligence Community and the Special Counsel’s office. 

Mueller finalized his report and soon gave it to Attorney General William Barr Friday night, and like kids waiting for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, the country, and the media, waited anxiously for the report to be summarized all weekend. Despite it all, the report was both surprising, yet predictable. 

Attorney General William Barr speaks during a press conference on the release of the redacted version of the Mueller report at the Department of Justice April 18, 2019, in Washington, DC. 
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

No collusion, with an open question on obstruction of justice. Cable news was mostly astonished by the nearly two year probe’s results, and had many, particularly the online right-wing media, overjoyed by the news of no collusion and no obstruction. Setting aside the trolls in the peanut gallery for a moment, many news outlets were flabbergasted by Barr’s conclusions of no obstruction. 

Critics were quick to point out the hypocrisy of both the media and Democrats alike. For two years, the media built Mueller up to be the pinnacle of law and order, and when it didn’t go their way or didn’t result in their favor, their reputation seemed to be tarnished, as the label of “Fake News” began to creep up into the American lexicon once again. 

Here’s the thing. It’s a bit of a mixed bag when it came to the media covering the investigation. The Special Counsel’s office was kept pretty tight within itself, and wasn’t speaking to or making any comments with any reporters throughout the two year investigation. 

The criticism is most certainly justified within cable news and online. Information was going at a snail’s pace and as information began to reach the general public, albeit slowly, cable news outlets, such as MSNBC, FOX and sometimes CNN, had to fill their hour-long segments with political jargon that appealed to their audience. Online outlets, particularly BuzzFeed News, faced backlash with their reporting on the investigation and many right-wing “news” websites began to spread disinformation in order to discredit Mueller and his investigation. Both of these outlets wanted to be the first to publish breaking stories and as a result, it blew up in their face.

Members of the BuzzFeed News team work at their desks at BuzzFeed headquarters, December 11, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Although the criticism is understandable with cable news and online outlets, print media has been on top of their game throughout the investigation. The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal favored patience over relevance, and it truly showed throughout their award-winning reporting. 

The Times was considered the leading source of information during the investigation. The Post was among the first news outlets that broke the story on former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s alleged contacts with Russian officials. The Wall Street Journal was one of the only leading conservative voices that held the Trump administration accountable during the investigation. 

Donald Trump and Michael Flynn together on the campaign trail in October 2016.
 (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

Be that as it may, cable news and some online outlets have showed their true colors during this whole ordeal and have a long ways to go before the American people can justifiably see them as credible. The jury is still out on Trump’s legal troubles, but it’s safe to say that if any news breaks, newspapers are still the most credible places to get your news.

For comments or questions about this post email or tweet @AFXHeller.

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