Thursday, January 12, 2017

Was Printing the Dossier the Right Thing to do?

   I pause in horror as I read how Christopher Steele, fearing for his life and the lives of his family, has gone into hiding. I feel for him. I am concerned about him. As I sit to write about the dossier Steele wrote, somehow just rushing on and discussing it without having concern for Steele seems wrong, cold and unfeeling. So, I begin this blog with that thought.
   I blogged last night saying it is standard journalism practice to cover accusations against high government officials, that to do differently this time would constitute a change in the way journalism is practiced. Well, now I read that the Steele dossier was circulating through the media for weeks or longer, with no one picking it up and writing about it, other than Mother Jones referring to the dossier in an October column by David Corn.
   No one covered the story, not the New York Times, not the Washington Post, not the Guardian, and not others. Although they had the story, they chose not to write it, thinking it unsubstantiated.
   I have not changed my belief. If you have accusations against high government officials, and if these accusations are coming from a source that is worthy, you print them. You get both sides of the story, if you can. You ask the person being accused (Trump, in this case) for his response, but you print them. (BuzzFeed did seek response from Trump.)
   An article in the Columbia Journalism Review seems to suggest BuzzFeed did the right thing by printing the dossier. "The media’s full-throated condemnation of BuzzFeed is both self-righteous and self-serving," the CJR article says.

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