Reporters' distrust of the Trump administration has become so reactionary that a new rule of thumb could be instituted for audiences looking for accuracy: If two or more journalists seem to be flocking around a breaking news item alleging chilling behavior by the new president or his staff, wait at least 30 minutes for further context.
Chances are the additional information will belie the first blush hysteria.
Since the Nov. 8 election, reporters have overhyped stories suggesting supposedly unprecedented conduct by the new administration, including imposing so-called "gag orders" on government scientists and deleting several pages from the White House website.
Though these "scoops" sound jaw-dropping, they often fall apart the moment an ounce of scrutiny is applied. This is obviously bad for consumers who just want the news. It's also bad for an industry whose credibility is already greatly diminished.
But rather than learning from experience, and applying a greater measure of caution to sensational-sounding news reports, many in the press are still rushing to share stories that keep turning out to be overblown.
On Thursday, for example, the Washington Post grabbed everyone's attention with a shocking headline that read, "The State Department's entire senior administrative team just resigned."
"All the top management of the State Department have quit because of Trump. 'Great' America? Or Little America?" asked the Post's Liz Sly on social media.
BuzzFeed's Sheera Frenkel added, "Asked a US diplomat friend how he felt about the resignations at State and the Trump administration so far. His answer, 'We are fucked.'"
CNN followed up shortly thereafter with a less dramatic story titled, "Trump administration asks top State Department officials to leave."
As it turns out, four mid-tier State officials were told recently by the new administration that their services were no longer needed. In response, the officials tendered their resignations, which is customary in these situations.
Here is the State Dept organizational chart showing the 4 officials who resigned yesterday afternoon. Report is way overblown. pic.twitter.com/I2rLSfzAQI— (((YousefMunayyer))) (@YousefMunayyer) January 26, 2017
Nothing about this story is out of the ordinary, according to the American Foreign Service Association.
"While this appears to be a large turnover in a short period of time, a change of administration always brings personnel changes, and there is nothing unusual about rotations or retirements in the Foreign Service," the group explained in a statement published shortly after the Post's report.
"Indeed, both are essential to the development of a steady stream of experienced leaders ready to assume critical roles," the statement added.
The Associated Press' Matt Lee, who has long covered the State Department, also noted Thursday that there is almost nothing unusual or unprecedented about the resignation.
"They are presidential appointees who submit resignations during every transition. Their resignations were accepted. We wrote about it [yesterday]," he said.
To recap: Resignations of this sort are pretty standard during White House transition periods. Also, there was no mass exodus of top-level officials and the "entire senior administrative team" certainly didn't quit in protest of Trump.
So all those panicky reactions from reporters were – for what, exactly?
As mentioned in this story's opening, the media hysteria surrounding Trump does no one any good. It turns off readers, and it undercuts the press' already diminished credibility.
Reporters obviously need to be more careful and even-handed in their presentation of Trump-related stories. If journalists keep overhyping every new thing involving the White House, readers who aren't already anti-Trump will eventually tune out the headlines entirely, greatly reducing the Fourth Estate's ability to hold the powerful to account.