Can the Los Angeles Times pass the SMELL test?

This week I was interested in seeing if the news article, “Trump’s unproven claims of widespread voter fraud trip up White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer”, written by the well-known news organization, the Los Angeles Times, could pass the SMELL test. I began by assessing the credibility of the source. This article was written by Michael A. Memoli, the Los Angeles Times writer who covers the White House and the 2016 presidential election. Since the Los Angeles Times is a national news organization, they have a reputation for accuracy. However, I still wanted to judge my source on three logical criteria, proximity, independence, and expertise. The source would rate high in proximity because Memoli works from Washington, D.C., and heard the information first-hand at a press conference. The source also rates high in independence because there is no conflict of interest, Memoli reported on a press conference because it is his job to do so. And lastly, the source rates high in expertise because Memoli has long experience covering politics and press conferences, spending the past eleven years covering national politics in D.C. After concluding that my source was credible, I turned my attention towards my information provider’s motivation. I believe Memoli’s motive for writing this piece was to inform. He remained faithful to his evidence, sharing what was discussed during the briefing. Memoli also included all major parties in the end, interviewing Republicans, such Mitch McConnell, and Democrats, such as Charles Schumer and Alex Padilla, who each had a different view on Trump’s allegation. Memoli also did not provide a call for action, or cast his judgement of who is right or wrong. In conclusion, Memoli’s motive was to provide information to his fellow Americans. Next, I assessed what evidence was provided to support the message. Memoli provides information about how Trump came to this belief of voter fraud, as he came across “a story on the conspiracy-theory website Infowars” (Memoli). Memoli then shuts down this conspiracy theory as he confirms “no evidence exists of widespread voter fraud”. I believe Memoli provided trustworthy information as he quoted and named all of his interviewees throughout the article, as well as confirming the lack of evidence regarding voter fraud. After I concluded that Memoli had factual and confirmed evidence, I assessed if the evidence logically supported the conclusions drawn. I believe that the evidence does support the conclusions because Spicer reported that Trump stands “by his claim that 3 million to 5 million votes were illegally cast”, but the conclusion made by Memoli in the end was that Trump’s claim is false due to there being no evidence of voter fraud. The evidence confirms Trump’s false claims, and logically shuts down the argument of any potential voter fraud. Finally, I assessed what was left out of the article. I feel as though there are two events/statements missing complete descriptions. The first mistake is when Memoli mentions the Infowars website where Trump found a conspiracy-theory article he believes to be true. Memoli makes the mistake of not posting direct quotes from that article. By not quoting the Infowars article, Memoli’s audience is not fully informed of everything Trump read and believes. We know it has to do with voter fraud, but there are no specific facts that Memoli brings to the reader’s attention. The second mistake I found was regarding Memoli’s statement that “no evidence exists of widespread voter fraud”. His only reasoning for there not being evidence of voter fraud is that it would cause “such a collusion would be all but impossible, given the decentralized nature of U.S. elections”. Memoli does not back these statements up with factual evidence from a credible source. He can claim that there is no evidence, but until he provides those facts with a credible source attached to them, then we cannot completely trust these statements. Overall, I believe Memoli is a credible source, providing logical, informative evidence to readers, but he does leave certain descriptions out which interferes with the reader’s being fully informed.

Memoli, Michael A. Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 24 Jan. 2017. Web. 29 Jan. 2017.


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