The Impact of Inaccurate Media Coverage and Journalistic Accountability

Lilac Cadouri
Lilac Cadouri is a Content Assistant at Percepto-Digital. Read more

In the ever evolving landscape of media,the consequences of faulty reporting and the importance of journalistic accountability have recently come into scrutiny in a recent CNN exposé featured in US-based entertainment magazine, Variety. The feature in question underscores the implications of misleading media coverage in shaping public perception, and the role of journalistic accountability in  maintaining trust and media credibility. 

Tatiana Siegel and the Variety editorial team released a controversial article on July 25, 2023.  The exposé surrounds former CNN President, Jeff Zucker, following his ousting in February of 2022. Since his departure, due to ethical breaches and a rumored romantic relationship with a CNN subordinate, the article alleges that Zucker has spent the last 18 months seeking potential partners to buy CNN, pitching the idea to the world’s richest individuals. These allegations, asserted by unidentified industry insiders, claim that Zucker is attempting to regain control of CNN. However David Zaslav, CEO of CNN’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery has gone on record to emphasize that CNN is not for sale. Tatiana Siegel claims that when asked for comment, Zucker has denied any interest in acquiring CNN. However, Siegel continues to press the agenda that disaster is ensuing within the media giant, with an imminent crash and burn for the brand. This article indicates a public relations disaster and slanders the company’s integrity. 

Vision of a New Era

Musk expressed his vision for a new era with the introduction of the “X” logo. He indicated that acquiring Twitter was a launching pad for the “everything app”; already amassing the aspiring app with 300+ million users. Musk explained his future prospects in the same tweet (do we still call it that?) in which he announced the name change – “in the months to come, we will add comprehensive communications and the ability to conduct your entire financial world.”  

By reusing the name “”, and by randomly stating its potential to operate the financial world of the user,  it seems that Musk is attempting to recreate his past company, or its successor; think, v. 2.0. 

Business analysts state that rebranding strategy of an already immensely popular platform is incredibly risky. Musk is tearing down years of Twitter’s branding, yet hopes that the popularity surrounding it will stay for his “new” platform. Users’ brand loyalty is deemed obsolete if the brand no longer exists – X is not Twitter. 

The CNN Controversy

The recent controversy surrounding CNN provides us with an invaluable lesson about the potential risks of unchecked reporting. Tatiana Siegel’s Variety feature, depicts a tale of global networking with novel figures like Amazon creator, Jeff Bezos and Roman Abramovich (the Russian oligarch).  This intricate account is currently under scrutiny by Zucker and his team. Zucker’s spokesperson, Risa Heller, expressed shock that the piece by Tatiana Siegel was published, claiming that it was “patently and aggressively false.” On numerous occasions Zucker and his team reached out to inform the reporter and her editors that they were spreading misinformation and tales which never happened, yet the article was published anyway. 

The Variety article is not only criticized by Zucker’s team. It is also under scrutiny for taking aim at journalistic integrity regarding a piece written by The Atlantic’s Tim Alberta, about another crucial figure in Siegel’s piece, former CEO and Chairman of CNN, Chris Licht. Alberta’s piece details the “disastrous year” of Licht’s reign at CNN. In the Variety piece, however,  Siegel claims that The Atlantic journalist took liberties in his reporting and participated in journalistic misconduct by publishing key off-the-record details and quotes. The editor-in-chief of The Atlantic informed Siegel that her claims were completely false, but Siegel “nevertheless decided to smear Alberta”. Alberta went to X and tweeted, “If @Variety had real editorial standards this piece never, ever would have [been] published”.  

Accountability – the Bedrock of Journalism 

This is not a soap-opera about journalists going awry, these are real life journalists of popular and influential media outlets. These people play an incredibly important role within our society, being information gatekeepers. A single inaccuracy can erode the media house of cards, leading to skepticism across audiences.  We are already in an era where misinformation spreads rapidly and media outlets must play a role in preserving their reputation as trusted sources of information. When they fail to uphold this responsibility, it undermines the foundations of reliable journalism. Therefore, media outlets should be steadfast in their commitment to fact-checking and precision, not just for their own integrity but also not to hinder the public’s perception of the news – Trump already coined “fake news”, let’s not play into that. 

The Variety article underscores the pressing need for an accountability check within the media industry. Lack of fact-checking and unsubstantiated claims harm the reputation of journalists; media outlets need to reevaluate their editorial processes and ensure that accurate information takes precedence over sensationalism.

Possible Repercussions: Case Study – The Levinson Inquiry

The Levinson Inquiry, initiated in 2011, was a comprehensive investigation into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press. The inquiry was established in the wake of the News International phone hacking scandal, bringing rise to claims of unethical behavior within the media industry. The findings were published in November of 2012, and examined  the culture, ethics, and practices of the British press, leading to stricter regulations and enhanced accountability mechanisms. 

The Levinson Inquiry serves as a cautionary tale for media ethics. It is a reminder that the media’s actions aren’t without consequences. The misconduct of a few journalists casts a shadow over the entire media industry, eroding public trust. 

Preserving Truth, Trust, and Ethical Reporting

In our world today, the media has been facing significant backlash – the media’s integrity is being questioned. Accusations of media outlets reporting on “fake” or embellished news are not necessarily a new phenomenon, however with our current media boom and fast-paced world, claims are becoming more and more prevalent within our society. Media’s impact is unparalleled. Thus, the pursuit of accuracy and the commitment to journalistic accountability aren’t just professional necessities; they are keystones to maintaining the audiences’ trust and the public’s perception of trustworthy reporting. 

The Variety article reminds us that the media’s role isn’t just to inform but also educate, enlighten, and hold itself accountable. In tandem, the Levinson Inquiry serves as a stark reminder that the media can be deceiving and unethical for explosive and exciting headlines. 

What can be learned from these two instances is that scandalizing or sensationalizing information is doing more harm than good.  A world where media outlets are pillars of integrity should not be seen as a fantasy, but as a reality that journalists and media outlets should strive for – so to foster trust and create a society that thrives on truth. 

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