Trump, Russia, and the News Story That Wasn’t

Liz Spayd, Public Editor of The New York Times:

A wave of readers over the past week have challenged The Times’s decision to sit on its reporting about the dossier. Among them was Michael Russo of Brooklyn, who had this to say:

I can appreciate that journalistic diligence requires your paper to describe these memos as “unsubstantiated.” But the “unsubstantiated” allegations described in this article have been circulating for months. While your editors made a value judgment about the veracity of these claims, American intelligence agencies apparently took the memos seriously enough to open their own investigations. How is this not newsworthy in its own right?

There is an unsettling theme that runs through The Times’s publishing decisions. In each instance, it was the actions of government officials that triggered newsroom decisions — not additional reporting or insight that journalists gained. On the server, once the F.B.I. signaled it had grown wary of its importance — without giving conclusive evidence as to why — the paper backed off. Weeks later, the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid, publicly admonished the F.B.I. for being secretive about its probe of Trump. That gave The Times cover to write what it knew about the bureau’s investigation into the bank server.

It was the same pattern on the dossier. Only after learning from CNN that Trump and President Obama had been briefed on the document did The Times publish what it had known for months. Its confidence in the material had not changed, nor did its editors know whether the top level briefing meant the government believed the information was true. But the briefing became justifiable cause to publish.

In this cat-and-mouse game between government and press, the government won.

My emphasis.  Better late than never but the NYT needs to seriously up its game to cope with the current environment.  Will it explicitly call Trump a liar?  The Wall Street Journal can’t even manage that.

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