The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal took different approaches in the past week to address President TrumpDonald TrumpNASCAR seeks to distance itself from Republican rallying cry ‘Come on, Brandon’ Jan. 6 panel weighs contempt after brief statement to former Trump Justice Department official Clark Broken promises: Veterans health care is being replaced by the private sector MOREunsubstantiated claims about the elections, underscoring the continuing difficulty for news organizations.
The way the two legacy national newspapers handled the publication of statements by Trump and his team sparked a debate about Trump’s relevance in the political world, the responsibility of journalists to expose the lies, and the ethics behind transparency and justice in the media business.
In the Post’s case, the outlet decided not to publish the full version of the former president’s response to an investigation he had conducted focused on the January 6 attack on the US capital.
The Post did not publish Trump’s full response because, it said, the lengthy rebuttal by a spokesperson for the former president contained “unrelated incendiary claims.”
The Post provided Trump with a list of 37 reported findings as part of its investigation. Their spokesperson Taylor Budowich provided an extensive written response that included a series of unrelated incendiary claims that The Post is not publishing in their entirety, ”the newspaper said in an explanation of its decision.
The newspaper did not respond to a query from The Hill seeking more information about the internal discussions that led to the withholding of Trump’s full statement.
Days earlier, the Journal published a letter to the editor from Trump verbatim riddled with inaccuracies, embellishments and false statements about the integrity of the 2020 presidential election in Pennsylvania.
One of the main bastions of financial news and political right-wing commentary in the country received a strong backlash for publishing Trump’s uncontrolled reflections on the outcome of the already certified elections, some of which come from journalists within your own newsroom.
“I think it’s very disappointing that our op-ed continues to post misinformation that our side of the news works so hard to discredit,” one of the Journal’s reporters told CNN after Trump’s letter was published. “They must hold themselves to the same standards as us!”
In response to Trump’s letter and the criticism it had faced internally for publishing it, the Journal said it “trusts[s] to our readers to make their own decisions about their statement. ”
“And we think it is news when a former president who can run in 2024 wrote what he did, even if (or perhaps especially if) his claims are bananas,” the editorial board wrote.
A spokesperson for the Journal said the outlet would not comment further on internal deliberations that took place among newsroom leaders regarding Trump’s letter, but noted that the outlet’s news and opinion sections are “completely separate.” .
Such differentiation can be a difficult line to cross, experts say, as studies show that media literacy and trust in journalists across the country has declined as alternative forms of news gathering and dissemination proliferate.
“When something is wrong in fact, you need to be more careful what you do with it,” said Kathleen Culver, director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “I applaud the Post for being transparent in what they decided to do … I don’t know if we necessarily do enough of that in journalism, explaining to readers and viewers and listeners, explaining why we make the decisions that we make.”
Matt Hall, who heads the Opinion Section of the San Diego Union-Tribune, suggested that the Journal’s attempt to separate its opinion content from its news content fails.
“Abandonment of duty by the Wall Street Journal opinion page, period,” Hall said. “We follow the same ethics, we are subject to the same standards [as the news side]. In the end, we can only have one opinion on it. That doesn’t change the fact that we need to post accurate information. ”
Rebecca Aguilar, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, noted that in the specific case of Trump, where a high-profile public figure has continually repeated discredited claims, it is up to news organizations to “find the truth and repeat it as many times as necessary. ”. we have to.”
“We must also be careful that we, as the press, do not become indirect spokespersons for politicians hiding behind an opinion piece to push their agenda,” Aguilar said. “We as the press have a responsibility to report the truth and let the public know when they are being lied to.”
The fact that Trump, who has been removed from major social media platforms for making false or abusive statements, no longer has a direct means of communication for the American public complicates the role that news organizations play in covering the former president and your future political aspirations.
A solid majority of Republicans have indicated in opinion polls that they would back Trump if he sought the party’s nomination for president again in 2024.
Trump has made it clear that he can run for president again, creating a decision for traditional media companies and Facebook and other social media groups that pulled Trump off their platforms after Jan.6.
“This is one of the things that we will have to deal with as an industry,” Hall said, pointing to the recent Republican election to the governor’s mansion in Virginia, a state President BidenJoe BidenHouse Passes 1 Trillion Infrastructure Bills, Advances Social Spending Plan Virginia Democrats Concede Loss of State House Liberals, Moderate Strike Deal on Biden’s Agenda, Clearing the Way for MORE votes won by 10 points, highlights “the divisions in this country that are only going to grow during the next year.”
“People are paying attention to us,” he said. “And the decisions we make are important.”