I drove through UC Merced the afternoon of Nov. 4, 2015, stopping at the various checkpoints to show my media credential to the law enforcement officers securing the campus.
As a made my way to the scheduled news conference at the Lake Yosemite clubhouse, I passed by several TV crews stopped along the road doing live reports. I arrived at the clubhouse parking lot to find it full with other TV trucks sent by network affiliates from Fresno to Sacramento to the Bay Area and beyond, representing every major network. Most Northern and Central California newspapers, large and small, sent reporters. Media all over the place.
So Monday when I saw the UC Merced stabbings incident on the list of 78 terrorist attacks the White House claims were “underreported” or basically ignored by those of us in what President Donald Trump loves to call the “very dishonest press,” I thought to myself, “With so many media right there on campus, how did we somehow downplay one of the nation’s bigger stories that day?”
Actually, I didn’t really think that at all. Not for one minute, because I was there and knew better.
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After a UC Merced student stabbed four people before being shot to death by a campus police officer, the media reported it in depth and detail. The news outlets continued to follow the story as each new piece of information – including the FBI’s report that the attacker was “self-radicalized and inspired by, but not connected to, the Islamic State” – became available.
Underreported? McClatchy newspapers collectively published more than 350 stories and columns to date (plus this one) on the Merced campus attack. Reporters at our sister paper, the hometown Merced Sun-Star, outworked them all. They’ve published more than 50 in-depth stories about the incident. The numbers don’t include other postings and shares in the social media.
The Washington Post published nearly two dozen stories about that attack. The networks all covered it on their national news broadcasts.
So, contrary to the White House spin doctors, the media didn’t dismiss it and didn’t downplay it. Consequently, you didn’t miss it because we didn’t miss, dismiss it or downplay it. The story was everywhere. Unless you were hunkered down in a cave somewhere with no WiFi or even a transistor radio, you couldn’t avoid reading or hearing about it.
The same applied to the San Bernardino attack that killed 14 people and left 21 more wounded a month later. The media swarmed that tragedy and in even greater detail for months thereafter.
The Orlando nightclub shooting and other attacks in the U.S., as well.
The New York Times and CNN were among the media outlets offering links to their coverage of every one of the listed attacks. The Times published more than 100 stories alone on the San Bernardino shootings. Other news agencies refuted the White House’s claims, as well. PolitiFact, a politics watchdog site, published links to the media coverage for each of the 78 attacks listed.
The White House simply wants to cherry-pick some events worldwide it wants to link – and they don’t all link definitively – to ISIS or ISIS-influenced terrorists from 2014 through 2016 as it tries to justify the president’s temporary immigration limit primarily targeting people from seven Muslim nations in the Middle East. Swaying public opinion by bashing the mainstream media played a huge role in putting Trump into the White House.
He knows his supporters do not care that the list conveniently omitted the Charleston church shooting, hate crimes targeting synagogues and mosques, and the ambushes of police officers by U.S. residents with no ties to Islamic terrorists groups. Or that it includes misspellings of San Bernardino (Bernadino) and attacker (attaker), the latter repeatedly.
Those events – the UC Merced incident among them – were anything but underreported by the media.
In fact, I suspect White House staffers relied on media accounts to build their list. Just Google shootings, stabbings, UC Merced, Orlando and – if they could spell correctly – San Bernardino and attacks, and they would have found a wealth of information.
Or maybe they could have paid more attention when those incidents happened in the first place. Everyone else did.