WSJ reporters upset because their editor wants them to cover Trump fairly

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Published by: Dan Calabrese on Tuesday February 14th, 2017

There's always the Times, the Post and CNN if you want to be a propagandist.

Interesting catch here by Rachel Stoltzfoos at the Daily Caller, who notes that it's now a matter of controversy within the newsroom of the Wall Street Journal that editor Gerald Baker expects reporters to stick to the facts and leave their anti-Trump opinions out of their reporting:

Wall Street Journal editor in chief Gerard Baker told his reporters Monday the paper would not abandon objectivity in its coverage of President Donald Trump, and directed them to find work somewhere else if they want to adopt a more oppositional tone.

“It’s a little irritating when I read that we have been soft on Donald Trump,” he told his reporters and editors, a source at the newsroom meeting told The New York Times. Baker held the meeting ostensibly to have a casual conversation on the editorial direction of the paper, but it was held on the heels of reports the newsroom is in turmoil over the Trump coverage.

The Trump coverage is “neutral to the point of being absurd,” one source inside the newsroom recently told Politico. Criticism peaked when Baker sent a memo to staff instructing reporters and editors to tone down the use of “loaded” language in coverage of Trump’s immigration ban.

That complaint about being "neutral to the point of being absurd" was actually lodged back in October, and it reflected reporters' belief that the media should not treat Trump in the same way it treated Hillary. Why? Because to do so made it seem like Trump was "just another nominee."

That raises an interesting question, of course: As opposed to what? If Trump is not "just another nominee," what exactly do you think he is? During the campaign, many reporters openly expressed their belief that Trump was some sort of lunatic who posed a danger to the republic, and for the most part their reporting reflected that belief. The fact that Gerald Baker's commitment to neutrality is controversial should tell you all you need to know about the American political media.

(It hardly matters now, but I wondered then and still do: Was a nominee as clearly corrupt and untrustworthy as Hillary Clinton "just another nominee," and if so why?)

If you just pay a little attention, you'll clearly recognize some of those loads words and phrases Baker is talking about. Watch the headlines in the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN for how many times they claim Trump "falsely" said something, or how often they tell us that someone in the administration said something "without offering evidence."

The point of neutral reporting and attribution is that you as the reporter don't make a judgment about what's right or wrong. You tell us what was said and who said it, and you let us decide for ourselves. If you want to reference information that seems to conflict with what your source says, and you can back it up, it's perfectly fine to reference that information in your story. But to label statements as false in headlines is a total departure from every recognized standard of objective reporting.

GDP growth for Obama's final year? A measly 1.6 percent

Here's what I think is at work here: Most straight news reporters are liberal, and they restraint their biases grudgingly because they know professional standards don't permit them to be as blatant as they would like to be. Many liberal reporters seem to see the start of the Trump presidency as a seminal moment that changes the rules. Much of the industry seems to have decided that Trump is such a threat and a danger that quaint notions of objectivity and neutrality can no longer be indulged. There has always been an undercurrent of thinking among left-wing journalists that it's absurd to treat all points of view as equally deserving of respect. Conservatives are ignorant liars! They think there's no conflict between objective journalism and reporters simply saying so.

So here are the left-wing journalists at the Wall Street Journal (quite distinct from the conservative editorial page staff, you understand), seeing their counterparts at the Times and the Post freed from any remaining pretense of objectivity because of the ominous threat that is Trump . . . and they think their chance is at hand too, only to be told by their boss that, no, sorry, you need to do straight reporting just like you've always done.

C'mon, Jerry! The whole industry is going oppositional! We want to too!

Fine, Baker seems to be telling them. Go get a job somewhere that allows that, and then you too can stop being a fair, objective journalist and become the left-wing propagandist you've always wanted to be. As long as you work for the Wall Street Journal, you'll play it straight.

When we've gotten to the point where this is controversial, is there any redeeming the mainstream media?

Dan's new novel, BACKSTOP, is a story of spiritual warfare and baseball. Download it from Amazon here!