The Goof Heard ‘Round the World

Nov 16, 2009

Eric Holder, Media, Obama

In case anyone needs proof of the mass media’s tendency to repeat government pronouncements without bothering to check their accuracy, here’s a small but telling example:

Inexplicably, when the U.S. Department of Justice issued a memo last month explaining that it would generally refrain from prosecuting medical marijuana activities that are clearly legal under state law, it mistakenly indicated that there are 14 medical marijuana states. DOJ’s goof was to include Maryland, where medical marijuana is not actually legal, but where state law provides for reduced penalties to patients who successfully present a medical-necessity defense.

DOJ’s goof has now traveled though most of the known universe, repeated by credulous news media. The Associated Press, after talking to MPP, at least included an explanatory note about the discrepancy, but others just repeated the mistake with no explanation, including Katie Couric of CBS, the  Washington Post, Voice of America, the Guardian of London, and even the editorial page of the New York Times.

C’mon, guys, tell me that fact-checking isn’t entirely dead. Kudos to those media outlets that got it right, including CNN.