Reporting of what now appears to be a hoax undermines Fox News affiliate and journalism in general
FOX4/KDFW news spent part of Friday’s broadcast dialing back a story that led its newscast a week ago that, based on police account, falsely tarnished the #blacklivesmatter movement.
Back then, the station was touting “Family’s pro-police truck totaled” as an act of vandalism against Scott Lattin, a disabled veteran, who was just trying to support police officers.
The report spoke of hateful messages and referenced the death of Harris County Deputy Darren Goforth. The truck was spray painted with obscenities and “Black lives matters.”
The story is part of the larger frame that holds #blacklivesmatter responsible for any conflicts between black civilians and police. Goforth’s murder became part of this narrative when the sheriff linked the killing with the movement. The Fox News affiliate’s coverage also referred to Black Lives Matter, which began after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, as a civil rights movement.
FOX extended this false narrative by wrongly linking it to the act of vandalism in Whitney, Texas, but some basic reporting might have prevented them from reporting what is now strongly suspected as a hoax. Fox pounced on the story, which seemed to reinforce the idea that the #blacklivesmatter movement is lawless.
The original story relied almost entirely on the family, and is reported with certainty, and without reporting that countered the false narrative about #blacklivesmatter.
The original story wasn’t just about a truck being damaged, Lattin is introduced as a disabled veteran and his son dreams of being a police officer.
According to the report, the truck was targeted because the family had soaped “Police lives matter” on the back windshield and tied blue ribbons on their fence posts.
Later, when Lattin is arrested, he’s introduced as a “Central Texas man” and the suggested motive is insurance fraud, not to mention the money collected through a Go Fund Me account.
There are also more sources including a neighbor who said she was skeptical from the beginning because the truck is in a fenced-in area.
There was also an interview with police who said the damage the family showed FOX, in particular the vandalism to the interior, didn’t match what was in the police report.
Kudos to the Fox affiliate for returning to the story with the new information that has surfaced, but in its code of ethics, the Society of Professional Journalists urges journalists to take responsibility for the accuracy of stories, the first go-around. Rather than exercising skepticism initially, Fox journalists promoted a false narrative that lawlessness is associated with the #blacklivesmatter movement. Even in its follow-up story that aired over the weekend, Fox4 reporters did not correct the record on this piece of the story, which viewers are owed.
Doing this undermines any credibility the network may have, along with the credibility of journalism in general.