There was an uproar among journalists earlier this week after leaked internal memos seemed to suggest the Trump administration had banned the Environmental Protection Agency from communicating with the public or awarding grants to states.
The way reporters made it sound, the new administration had taken unprecedented steps to silence scientists at not just the EPA, but also the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Though it sounded like shocking stuff, it turned out many reporters had mischaracterized the memos, adding to the growing list of overhyped, media-instigated feeding frenzies.
The AP caught everyone's attention Tuesday with the headline, "BREAKING: Trump bans EPA employees from providing updates on social media or to reporters, bars awarding new contracts or grants."
BuzzFeed also had a story showing that an internal USDA memo had ordered employees to halt all press releases and similar outgoing documents.
Many reporters took the news poorly, to put it mildly, and they wasted no time sharing the story on social media with the usual frantic commentary attached.
Gizmodo's Rae Paoletta remarked with a succinct, all-caps, "THE FUCK."
"This is a very, very big deal," said ABC News affiliate Kacie Hollins.
CBC Radio's Raina Douris added, "this is incredibly, incredibly dangerous and irresponsible."
"Transparency is being shut down," said NBC News affiliate Jayne Miller.
Mic published an article titled, "EPA Gag Order: Why Donald Trump's media blackout is a threat to the agency's core values."
"Trump silences government scientists with gag orders," read a Verge headline.
But officials at the EPA and other federal agencies said the press oversold the story, and that many in media greatly overreacted.
"I've lived through many transitions, and I don't think this is a story," one senior EPA official told the New York Times. "I don't think it's fair to call it a gag order. This is standard practice. And the move with regard to the grants, when a new administration comes in, you run things by them before you update the website."
The agency's communications director, Doug Ericksen, said separately that they are simply maintaining a holding pattern until the new administration gets settled, which is normal during transitions.
"We're just trying to get a handle on everything and make sure what goes out reflects the priorities of the new administration," Ericksen told the AP.
The EPA said Tuesday in a statement, "The EPA fully intends to continue to provide information to the public. A fresh look at public affairs and communications processes is common practice for any new Administration, and a short pause in activities allows for this assessment."
The USDA, for its part, issued another memo clarifying its original directive, saying the initial note ordering a halt to all "public-facing" documents wasn't properly vetted prior to being sent out.
However, like the EPA, the USDA said a department-wide halt in communication isn't unusual for a transitioning administration.
"What happened yesterday was a misunderstanding," the director of communications for the USDA's Agricultural Research Service told Scientific American.
"The announcement that our administrator sent to staff last night was less a rescinding of anything than it was a clarification," he said, adding, "This is what has happened at the transition of every administration … it's just a pause."
All that knee-jerk handwringing from reporters for – what, exactly?
One more time, for good measure: Media have got to be more careful covering the Trump White House. If every story is handled like it's the worst thing since Watergate, and if reporters light their hair on fire for every new development, including the ones that are actually not that worrisome, readers will eventually tune it all out as white noise.
When readers do that, and they stop paying attention, those in power will have more room to do as they please, which is precisely what the Fourth Estate is supposed to guard against.