For all the dreadful journalism I’ve read in recent years (and it’s a lot), I never considered the possibility that a Mainstream Media article could come out in which the thrust of the story changed, and changed substantially, no less than three times between the headline and the story’s 15th paragraph (two-thirds in). In fact, the thrust changed so substantially that it finally became clear to a reader diligent enough to stick with the article that long that the headline was genuine Fake News.
Here’s the header for the Reuters report in question: “Trump’s China tech war backfires on automakers as chips run short.” The clear implication: “That moronic President! He and his stupid China policies are ruining a major U.S. and global industry!”
Which makes the first change of thrust awfully strange – especially since it came in the very first paragraph. “Automakers around the world are shutting assembly lines because of a global shortage of semiconductors that in some cases has been exacerbated by the Trump administration’s actions against key Chinese chip factories, industry officials said.”
That is, it hasn’t been just the Trump policies. They’ve been a problem in only “some cases.”
Even that development would be newsworthy – although not terribly so. Except just five paragraphs later, readers learn that “In at least one case, the shortage ties back to President Donald Trump’s policies aimed at curtailing technology transfers to China.”
One case! And the company concerned isn’t even named, which is fishier still. In addition, keep in mind that when reporters or anyone else use phrases like “in at least one case,” that means they looked for other cases and couldn’t find any. According to this reputable source, the number of vehicle (including heavy duty truck) manufacturers in the world as of 2018 was 56 – making me wonder how with how many such companies the two reporters who wrote the story checked – before arbitrarily giving up and concluding that what they found couldn’t possibly the only such instance of this Trump policy effect.
And finally, nine paragraphs later, comes the third change – a context-setting observation that further demolishes the storyline: “The chipmaking industry has always strained to keep up with sudden demand spikes. The factories that produce wafers cost tens of billions of dollars to build, and expanding their capacity can take up to a year for testing and qualifying complex tools.”
In other words, buyers of semiconductors have been dealing with sudden shortages literally since chips first starting being used in significant volumes in other goods and services industries.
So the only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from this article is that, although there’s no meaningful shortage of automotive semiconductors that can be attributed to President Trump’s policies, there’s a major shortage of either journalistic integrity or maybe plain old competence at Reuters.