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Former CBS journalist Sharyl Attkisson in an interview last week said mainstream media’s shift from investigative journalism toward a corporate-sponsored, “fact check” mindset originated with left-wing activists seeking to discredit conservative news outlets.
That shift has had a major impact on news coverage of the pandemic, Attkisson said.
Attkisson, winner of five Emmys for investigative journalism, told viewers of Epoch Times TV’s “America’s Thought Leaders,” the term “fake news” used by the media in the run-up to Donald Trump’s election likely originated with First Draft, an online fact-checking organization created with funds from Eric Schmidt, then-CEO of Google and an active supporter of Hilary Clinton.
“First Draft thought of ‘fake news’ as only a problem in the conservative media,” Attkisson said. “There was no liberal version of ‘fake news.’”
Attkisson said prior to 2015 – 2016, there was no public movement “begging for Big Tech, social media or other third parties to set themselves between us and open information online or in the news.”
But that changed, she said.
“Many people embraced the notion that some know-nothing third party that quite frankly was having its strings pulled by some corporate or political interest could insert themselves and say what we can and can’t see and read, and what we should believe,” Attkisson explained.
Attkisson took a deep dive into the phenomenon in her bestselling book, “Slanted: How the News Media Taught Us to Love Censorship and Hate Journalism,” published in 2020, but written before the pandemic narrative developed.
The result is “the crazy media landscape we have today,’ said Attkisson, “where we have journalists — I don’t even think they’re journalists, but writers who amplify what establishment scientists or politicians want them to say — acting more as propagandists than journalists.”
During her time as an investigative reporter at CBS covering the pharmaceutical companies, she noticed a shift in editorial policy regarding stories on the drug companies.
Attkisson said that in the early 2000s:
“I was surprised that the pushback [from industry representatives] as I covered pharmaceutical industry stories came to be about not just trying to shape the information, but more about keeping a story from airing or keeping a study from being reported on. There were these efforts by large-scale PR firms that had been hired by the pharmaceutical industry and by government parties that work with the pharmaceutical industry to keep the story from being reported at all.”
On news coverage of the pandemic, Attkisson said:
“Not too long ago, we in the news would not have simply repeated what the government and industry said uncritically and try to convince the audience of its truth. We would have treated skeptically these sources with a clear conflict of interest.”
Now, we can’t listen to other sources or other scientists, she said.
Attkisson said those who served propaganda interests are now “editorial presences” within newsrooms. The firewall between those who craft the message and the reporters are breaking down.
She outlined a number of elements of the pandemic that the media got wrong, “unrepentantly” never acknowledging their errors and false “debunkings.”
The list included:
- Reports that COVID may have originated in the Wuhan lab — initially “debunked,” but now widely acknowledged as likely.
- Dr. Anthony Fauci’s claims to Congress in 2020 regarding the severity of COVID — comments directly at odds with his own published research of the time.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shifting policies on masks: no … yes … maybe.
- Lockdowns’ effectiveness in limiting the spread of the virus — they weren’t.
- Vaccines as 95% effective against transmission and 100% effective against hospitalization and death — they aren’t.
- Vaccines as preventing transmission — they don’t.
- The misinformation fiascos regarding available clinical treatments.
- The physical and mental health fall-out for young people of pandemic mandates for schools.
- The CDC’s failure to correct false claims regarding “super immunity” for those receiving the Pfizer vaccine after having already been infected with COVID. Pfizer’s research showed no net gain in immunity for those vaccinated who already had natural immunity. Nonetheless, CDC officials shared this information with doctors in presentations after admitting the error.
Defining herself as an optimist, Atkkisson said she believes propagandists have “overplayed their hand” with America and become “too transparent” in their agenda.
She praised the efforts of some entrepreneurs to create new, independent media platforms and outlets such as Substack and Rumble that refuse to censor intellectual content.
“The truth finds a way to be told,” Atkkisson concluded. “It may take some time, but the search for truth will ultimately win out.”