, 11 tweets, 2 min read Read on Twitter
As someone who wrote about the Cohen-BuzzFeed story and its potentially very serious implications on Friday, I have some reflections/introspections after losing some sleep last night.

First off, we don’t know exactly what Mueller team disputes, but the unprecedented nature of that denial suggests it sees a fundamental problem with the story. That statement doesn’t go out over a quibble or two.

It’s trite to say, but we need to figure out how to handle this kind of story. It’s unconfirmed, but it’s out there. Lawmakers are talking about it! Democrats are talking impeachment! Can you ignore that very real debate? Do you just let partisan outlets own the analysis?

I’m reminded of what happened when the hacked Clinton emails came out. We all (okay, most of us) jumped on them. It was a hell of a story. We got an inside look into an actual presidential campaign! We were also unwittingly assisting a Russian propaganda effort.

BuzzFeed story is not a direct parallel, but it raises similar issues. Those Clinton emails were in the public domain, and SOMEONE was going to find the big ones. Similarly, plenty of people would have learned about Trump allegedly telling Cohen to lie. Social media, etc.

All of that said, each piece that’s written about something that may turn out to be untrue is counter-productive, at best. Even with extensive caveating (which I included), it furthers a story the erodes trust in the media.

Media consumers aren’t as savvy as we’d like them to be, and just because something is technically accurate and qualified doesn’t make it good. People skip right over those caveats, and if they want to believe these reports, they treat them like gospel.

I honestly don’t know what the answer is here, besides perhaps more patience and reflection in real time, and less emphasis on an unconfirmed report until others start confirming it. But then -- again -- less circumspect analysis might carry the day.

We also need to not repeat the same mistakes post-denial. Just like we shouldn’t jump to too many conclusions about BuzzFeed’s report, we shouldn’t just assume it was completely botched based upon one denial, no matter how authoritative the denier.

Mueller’s team would seem to have an extremely compelling interest in not just being technically accurate in its denial, but avoiding false perceptions that it denied more than it did. But you never know until you know.

And just like the Mueller investigation needs to mind perceptions of it, regardless of technical accuracy and careful wording, so do the media, and so do I.

(11/ END)
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