Rachel Stoltzfoos, DCNF
New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet weighed in Wednesday on Buzzfeed’s decision to publish a document detailing totally unverified claims about explosive dirt Russia is rumored to have on Donald Trump, saying there’s no way the paper would run that story.
“We, like others, investigated the allegations and haven’t corroborated them, and we felt we’re not in the business of publishing things we can’t stand by,” Baquet said in TheNYT. The allegations Buzzfeed reported were “totally unsubstantiated,” he added.
Buzzfeed was the only outlet to publish the dossier in full Tuesday, after news broke that U.S. intelligence agencies had investigated the claims in the document and included it in a recent briefing to President Obama and Trump on the Russian meddling campaign in the election. An opposition researcher paid by both Republicans and Democrats during the campaign to find dirt on Trump composed the dossier, which makes serious and explosive allegations.
Although it’s been circulating in Washington for months, neither the U.S. intelligence community nor motivated journalists have been able to verify any of the claims. Buzzfeed acknowledged as much in its story, saying in the claims in the report are “not verified” and adding later in the piece some are “potentially unverifiable.”
Buzzfeed editor Ben Smith tweeted a memo he sent to staff following the report detailing the outlet’s decision to publish the dossier, saying it was a difficult decision that some in the newsroom did not agree with. “We published the dossier, which Ken Bensinger obtained through characteristically ferocious reporting, so that, as we wrote, ‘Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of government.’”
— Ben Smith (@benyt) January 11, 2017
Baquet’s criticism of the decision is one of many circulating in the media Wednesday, as journalists question the ethics of publishing claims that amount to unverified rumors.
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