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.