September 30, 2011 by David K. Sutton
Tasty Muffin Rage
Those better be some tasty muffins for $16 a pop!
I would love to blame Fox News, conservative talk radio and right-wing pundits for this non-story, except I can’t. Just about every major media outlet jumped on this story. If you somehow didn’t hear about the case of the Justice Department and the $16 muffins then count yourself lucky. Of course, you are reading this article so that means you are hearing about it now. But instead of false information, this article sets the record straight.
This is another case of rage towards wasteful government, which would be fine if factual. Unfortunately the media is less concerned with truth and more concerned with creating scandal where there is none. So what was the false narrative this time?
The inspector general of the Justice Department released a report that listed, among other items, $16 muffins for a law enforcement conference in 2009. This story hit the news agencies and was printed, re-printed and reported on talk shows, including The O’Reilly Factor. In fact, just this week on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Bill O’Reilly boasted that he broke this story.
There’s just one problem. It isn’t true. What is the real story? The Hilton hotel chain released a statement in response to this story to clarify that the $16 charge was for a full continental breakfast. However, the charge showed simply as “muffins”.
Nobody thought it might be wise to fact check or ask for clarification? The report said “$16” and “muffins” and that’s all it took for this meme to spread. This type of story feeds right into the Fox News and conservative talk radio narrative of why taxes shouldn’t be raised and why the size of government should be reduced, but it was based entirely on incomplete information and a lack of journalistic integrity.
If you want to call your business a news organization, at the very least your job is to get the facts right. For that matter, your job is to make reasonable decisions on what news gets reported so that you are a valuable service to society. Even if the $16 muffin story had been true, did it deserve the attention it got when compared to all the big problems we face in this country and the world?