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Nick Davies - an author and true journalist - wrote an exposé of the falsehoods, distortions and propaganda of the global media titled "Flat Earth News" - of Churnalism. Though written nearly 10 years ago, it is clear that few if any of the current crop of Internet Reporters have any idea that Davies was exposing them - as to this day, this hour, this minute, Churnalism is not only very much alive, but thriving.

The Internet is largely made of up recycled news. (And Fake News, but that is for another editorial.)

Here It Is In Action

November 21, 2016, CNN published a report headlined: (FEC hits Trump on 1,100 errors, totaling roughly $1.3M)[http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/21/politics/fec-trump-violations/index.html]. First tipoff of how poor Internet News has become is that the headline is grammatically incorrect.

The sub-headline in part reads:


Trump FEC News

Before getting to the content, here are some headlines from several Internet News sites that churned out their own content based on CNN's. Many duplicate CNN's report. Some churn it by re-posting or re-writing it.

Like Salon: (FEC goes after Donald Trump for more than 1,000 violations of campaign finance laws)[http://www.salon.com/2016/11/21/fec-goes-after-donald-trump-for-more-than-1000-violations-of-campaign-finance-laws/]

And Mediaite: (FEC Finds Errors Regarding $1.3M in Donations to Trump Campaign)[http://www.mediaite.com/online/fec-finds-errors-regarding-1-3m-in-donations-to-trump-campaign/]

The Hill uses a more accurate headline: (FEC questions Trump donations worth $1.3M)[http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/307063-fec-hits-trump-on-1100-campaign-errors-worth-13m]

The Content

Typical reporting uses the first two paragraphs as a lead-in/summary.

CNN:

The Federal Election Commission is asking the campaign of Donald Trump to correct more than 1,000 errors in its latest financial filing.
The FEC determined that the Trump campaign accepted close to 1,100 donations, which amounted to roughly $1.3 million, that violated one of a handful of campaign finance laws.
Mediaite:
The FEC says that that Trump campaign’s latest financial disclosure has over 1,000 errors, amounting to $1.3 million in donations.
In many cases individual donors failed to adhere to the cap on contributions, CNN reports. In other cases, groups donating did not properly register with the FEC.

The Hill, despite their better headline:

The Federal Election Commission may have found more than a thousand mistakes in the latest financial filing by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, according to a new report.
The FEC determined that Trump’s campaign accepted about 1,100 donations — totaling approximately $1.3 million — that may be in violation of various campaign finance laws, CNN said Monday.

Salon actually is quite original. It's first paragraph is out of place; it's the second paragraph that relates to the headline:

With mounting evidence and growing complaints that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign improperly coordinated with supportive super PACs during the election, calls for the Federal Election Commission to take action have only grown louder. Now it appears that the government’s electoral watchdog is finally making the first steps.
On Sunday, the FEC sent a letter to the Trump campaign flagging more than 1,000 potentially illegal mistakes in the campaign’s October latest filing. In the letter addressed to Trump campaign treasurer Timothy Jost, the FEC warned that hundreds of Trump’s donors exceeded the $2,700 contribution limit. In total, the FEC said Trump’s presidential campaign accepted almost 1,100 donations totaling about $1.3 million that appear to have violated campaign finance laws.

What Is Wrong

What is wrong here are the implications of "errors", "mistakes", "violation/violated", and Salon's use of "illegal" - even though qualified with "potentially".

All of those descriptions are false.

If anyone actually read the FEC letter, they will see this for themselves. Here is the gist of the letter:

Additional information is needed for the following...
  1. [O]ne or more contributions from an organization(s), which is not a political committee registered with the Commission (see attached)... If any apparently prohibited contribution in question was incompletely or incorrectly disclosed, you should amend your original report with clarifying information...
  2. [O]ne or more [political committee other than a qualified multi-candidate committee] contributions that appear to exceed the limit set forth in the Act... If any apparently excessive contribution in question was incompletely or incorrectly disclosed, you must amend your original report with the clarifying information... If any contribution(s) you received exceeds the limits, you may have to refund the excessive [or redesignate the] amount...
  3. [O]ne or more [individual or a political committee other than an authorized committee or a qualified multi-candidate committee] contributions that appear to exceed the limits set forth in the Act... If any apparently prohibited contribution in question was incompletely or incorrectly disclosed, you should amend your original report with clarifying information... If any contribution(s) you received exceeds the limits, you may have to refund the excessive [or redesignate the] amount...
  4. It appears that your committee has received original contributions that are designated to different elections than the refunds, and/or has refunded an amount greater than the original contributions... Please clarify these [4] refunds and amend your report(s) as necessary.
  5. Please be advised that the value of in-kind contributions must be added to the receipts and disbursements total in order to avoid either inflating or deflating the cash on hand amount... Please amend your report to itemize the in-kind contributions from [two names].

The FEC letter is a request for additional information! But someone at CNN either wanted to "sex it up", was given a "subject to write about", totally misunderstood the FEC letter, or deliberately wrote in a way to spread falsehoods.

Read the letter! CNN and others provide the link to it. All the News Articles linked here are totally wrong! They are all bullshit.

The key phrases here are: "If any apparently prohibited [excessive] contribution in question was incompletely or incorrectly disclosed...", "If you have received prohibited contributions..."

And the key words are "if", "apparently", "was", etc..

Nothing in the FEC letter can be misconstrued as the FEC saying the Trump Campaign's October Monthly Report had any error, mistake or violation - they said there may be excessive, prohibited donations, or incorrect or incomplete information in the reported donations, and that, if so, the Trump Campaign has to respond accordingly.

This is not meant to defend Trump or his campaign. This is meant to defend journalism. Who knows how many of the donations were - and these words are used in proper context here - in error or a mistake. Or incorrect or prohibited. And if any were, who's at fault? The donor or the Campaign? If any were, was anyone aware of it and made any attempt to "hide them" from the FEC? (Or hope that the FEC wouldn't notice?)

But neither you nor I know the answers. And CNN and all those journalists do not know the answers. They just re-hashed hasty and vague innuendo as fact - no one took any sort of in-depth look into this.

The Thousand

And those thousand "errors", "mistakes", "violations"? The letter had an attachment of a list of the donations for which additional information was requested.

They were a list of donations in question! And there is something quite odd about the donation list - of which there does seem to be about a thousand (one can count them) - there are more than a few that could be duplicates: same name, same date, same amount. Churnalism This is Churnalism in action. A News Organization publishes a short, hasty, vague "article", and thousands of Churnalists re-post or re-write it and sit back all smug and happy that they have "conducted journalism". And it's bullshit. And it should scare the shit out you if you are not sitting on your brain.

Publisher: John Gwot Gordon Geck: Editor

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