Can I Get Two Alternative Facts For Price of One?

I am in Europe — well Britain and technically still Europe for two more years — and so have only just caught up with the Meet the Press interview today where trump aide Kellyanne Conway says Sean Spicer, the new White House press secretary, was merely offering “alternative facts.”

I am really looking forward to moving forward with Trump press officers at State, the NSC and Pentagon to ask them to supply me with some “alternative facts.” What am I meant to ask? Is this a fact or an alternative fact? Which one should I consider more truthful — the fact or the alternative fact? Could you give me several alternative facts and can I pick the alternative fact I should use? Can I get two alternative facts for the price of one?

Iraq Here We Come?

What on earth are we meant to make of this aside by Donald Trump in his speech yesterday at the CIA’s Langley headquarters? At one point, he said we “should have kept the oil” after invading Iraq. “Maybe we’ll have another chance,” he added.

He said the same thing a few times on the campaign trail and failed to take on board the criticism that sucking up all of the country’s underground reserves and transporting the oil would amount to an engineering and logistical non-starter. Aside from that it would breach international law and would make an enemy of a government that is meant to be an ally.

Right of Reply?

Pretty disgusted with the Columbia Journalism Review. More than a week ago I wrote a rebuttal to a piece written by the managing editor in which she argued Buzzfeed was right to post the Steele dossier. They accepted my rebuttal but still have not posted it more than a week later.

As friends here know, I am no Trump advocate but I am reporter who believes in some fundamental standards of the profession, which I think Buzzfeed broke. I remain very suspicious of the Steele dossier.

Yesterday, I was with a serving British intelligence officer, who said to me that he was having trouble squaring with what he knows about Steele and his past professionalism with a dossier that is “dubious.” It isn’t the job of journalists to post material like this without some serious verification, at least in part. “Gossip” was a word the intelligence official used when discussing the dossier. We need to be copper-bottomed.

I wrote about the Steele Dossier marker this month for The Hill. The article is here.

Trump Era: Devaluation of News

I was asked today on Facebook by my friend Michael McDowell, a former BBC and Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reporter this: “Jamie, what is your position on the Times, Post (not WSJ yet), and other major prof. journalism orgs. actually calling Trump’s or Spicer’s or Conway’s lies, actually using that word, depending. Or false, or innacurate, etc. It has certainly been stepped up in recent days, esp. re. the claims on the numbers at the rallies.”

My response: “When the camp Trump comes out with a demonstrably untrue statement, that should be highlighted, but in news sections it should, I feel, be countered not by the reportorial voice but by another authority. So on the issue of Metro ridership, why not use a statement on the actual numbers from the transit authority? When Trump says he has not been feuding with the CIA, why not run what he has said in the past and what intelligence officials have said? In the more opinionated venues, the standards are different.”

It strikes me that the Washington Post and NYT are allowing themselves to be rattled into making a strategic error. At the same time, they are lowering their own professional standards. I can’t recall them handling any previous U.S. or foreign leader this way. Let the facts speak for themselves — reportorial claims of lies aren’t even necessary. But by opting for this approach they are devaluing their reporting and placing themselves on a par with Fox News. That is undermining their reportorial authority.

When it comes to opinion or pieces in opinionated news sites like the Daily Beast or Buzzfeed, the standards are different.