“Our media took a long, sobering look at how thoroughly they had disgraced themselves last year and said: ‘I bet we can top that in 2017!’“
J. Burton, formally of the satire Twitter feed “Hillary PR Team,” gave voice to what millions of Americans were feeling Tuesday night when BuzzFeed News decided to dump a tsunami of unsubstantiated, unverified, made-up opposition research on President-elect Donald Trump.
“Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of U.S. government,” Ben Smith, the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News, wrote to his staff, explaining why he chose to publish the possibly error-ridden document that so many other news outlets had passed on.
“Our presumption is to be transparent in our journalism and to share what we have with our readers. We have always erred on the side of publishing,” Mr. Smith wrote in the letter he released Tuesday on Twitter.
So basically, if any person — no matter how sketchy or what their motivations are — passes along salacious information to BuzzFeed, they’ll publish it, no questions asked.
Or maybe, only if that person is Mr. Trump, which the website has looked to malign this entire election cycle. It’s hard to imagine Mr. Smith would’ve made the same decision — based on such scant evidence and reporting — if that person was President Obama.
Because that’s not journalism, it’s gossip mongering. And it’s awful hard for readers to “make up their own minds” on its content if no counterbalance or quest for truth is given. It doesn’t even look as though BuzzFeed reached out to the president-elect or his team for fair comment — a standard industry practice.
Let’s unpack this report from the beginning.