Some journalists are frustrated at the leaked Wall Street Journal emails revealed to The New York Times Wednesday, showing Editor in Chief Gerard Baker lamenting them for injecting too much “opinion” into the outlet’s reporting, imploring them to stick to the facts.
“Sorry. This is commentary dressed up as news reporting,” wrote Baker in a series of late night emails regarding The Journal’s reporting on President Donald Trump’s rally in Phoenix on Tuesday. “Could we please just stick to reporting what he said rather than packaging it in exegesis and selective criticism?”
Several phrases were removed from the draft of an article edited by Baker. The lead paragraph of the draft described the Charlottesville, Va., protests as “reshaping” the Trump presidency, and was later removed. The same draft described Trump’s speech in Phoenix as “an off script return to campaign form” pivoting “away from remarks a day earlier in which he had solemnly called for unity.” Those remarks also didn’t make into the final version.
The Times reported in February that Baker’s stewardship has created an “unease and tension” in the newsroom over what some journalists perceive as the paper lacking “toughness and verve” in their reporting on President Trump. Denying that The Journal’s coverage of the president isn’t tough enough, Baker suggested that other papers have abandoned objectivity, and if the president wants to engage in a battle with the media, The Journal should stay out of it. With the given media climate surrounding the Trump administration, sticking to the facts has become controversial.
“It was nice to see you out in Southampton a couple weeks ago,” Mr. Baker said to the president’s eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, revealed The Times referencing a Politico transcript of Baker interviewing the president. The Times called Baker taking the lead on a Trump interview “unusual,” implying Baker’s rigor in remaining factual is somehow biased in favor of the president.
The New York Times and The Washington Post, two of The Journal’s main competitors, have at times been less rigorous in reporting the facts without editorial commentary. Often times, both The Post and The Times lead their reports with the incriminating information front-and-center and bury the mitigating information deep within the article.
A Washington Post report in July tried to link the GOP shooter to a pro-Trump radio host. In December, The Post, pursuing the Trump-Russia story, reported that “Russian hackers penetrated the U.S. electricity grid,” which later turned out to be completely false.
In August, The Times published a front-page article that a government climate change study contradicting the president’s claims on global warming, would be “suppressed” by the administration. The Times later retracted the article after climate scientists that worked on the report noted it was made publicly available since January.
The New York Times’ Jim Rutenberg, wrote in August 2016 that “working journalists” who believe Trump is a “demagogue,” playing into the nation’s “worst racist and nationalistic tendencies,” must throw out “textbook American journal[ism]” and cover him in a way he’s never been covered before. Rutenberg continued, writing that if “[journalists] view a Trump presidency as potentially dangerous, than your reporting is going to reflect that.”
When contacted about the leaked emails on Wednesday, a Wall Street Journal Spokeswoman reflected a very different philosophy than Rutenberg’s.
“The Wall Street Journal has a clear separation between news and opinion. As always, the key priority is to focus reporting on facts and avoid opinion seeping into news coverage.”
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