I hope you are all familiar with the SMELL Test. If not, to sum it up it is a way to asses the credibility of or how reliable a piece of media is.
This past weekend for an ASCJ200 assignment, I took the SMELL test for a trial run on this article written by Los Angeles Times reporter Michael A. Memoli. To summarize, the article is about president Donald Trump’s accusations of voter fraud in the November 2016 election.
So I got to smelling around and did some research on the source of the article and the information it provides. As stated above, it was published on the LA Time’s website (it’s their official site, I checked) and written by political reporter Michael A. Memoli.
His bio on the Times website says that he has been a Washington-based political reporter for 11 years. His experience and proximity to America’s political scene gave me confidence that the article would be reliable. However, after reading other articles by Memoli I realized he had a slightly liberal lean. Nevertheless, I trusted his reporting.
Next I started to sniff around his evidence. I asked myself who did he talk to and what facts or quotes back up the statements he makes. Memoli does a great job at linking readers to articles that are relevant to past events or statements he mentions in his article. He also gathers quotes from both sides of the aisle on the issue of voter fraud, citing Sean Spicer, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
Despite his credible quotes and links, Memoli leaves out other issues discussed in the press conference. Admittedly, he states that it would have been good to give the reader more context by adding a video or listing other topics discussed.
The article also fails to put “evidence or ideology” as said in lecture when Memoli opens the article stating:
“President Trump’s continued insistence that as many as 5 million people illegally cast votes in the election induced further heartburn for the nascent administration Tuesday, as his press secretary struggled to explain and defend the unproven claim before ultimately abruptly ending his second televised briefing.”
His phrase “induced further heartburn for the nascent administration,” clearly reflects that of Memoli’s own opinion rather than objective reporting.
Another aspect of the article that is questionable is the absence of an actual poll or study from the 2016-2017 election that refutes Trump’s statement. Memoli could have also cited the statement from Trump’s own lawyers that saying that there was no voter fraud like this New York Times article did.
After reading the article in full, the conclusion that Sean Spicer was asked questions on voter fraud that was not proven is logical. I trust that the journalist got it right in this situation. Although no viewpoint is marginalized and the content is not paid for (other criteria to consider in the smell test).
All in all, I have to deduct points for the lack of context when it comes to the entirety of the press conference and editorialization that takes place in the lead. This article doesn’t stink too bad… but it could benefit from a blast of Febreeze. 8/10