Richard Benedetto writes at USA Today:
With all the best intentions of looking out for the little guy, we in the news media are vulnerable to dramatic stories of people being hurt by forces over which they have little control. Whenever someone proposes to cut budgets, we run to those affected and report in vivid detail about the suffering that will occur if the money flow is reduced even a penny.
The arc of one such claim over the last week reveals just what the diminished ranks of reporters are up against when they deal with the statements of top government officials that they must cover. Last Thursday under the headline "U.S. schools brace for federal funding cuts," TheWashington Post summarized what Education Secretary Arne Duncan told them: "Schools across the country are sending out pink slips as they brace for the possibility of deep federal budget cuts that could take effect next week."
"There's no one in their right mind who would say that this is good for kids ... yet somehow it becomes tenable in Washington," he said. The article didn't quote anyone who might have a different take, just Duncan, who blamed it on the Republicans.
On Sunday, Duncan followed up on CBS's Face the Nation saying, "There are literally teachers now who are getting pink slips, who are getting notices that they can't come back this fall."
Three days later, reporters at a White House briefing followed up asking Duncan to name such a school district. He named one. When a different Post reporter checked, it turned out the layoffs there had little to do with the automatic budget cuts. The Post called this "hype." Others might use stronger language.