Editors behind two of the nation’s leading newspapers appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press this Sunday to discuss President-elect Donald Trump and the media. Dean Baquet of the New York Times and Gerard Baker of the Wall Street Journal sat down with host Chuck Todd to talk about the First Amendment, their responsibilities when it comes to covering Trump, and how they failed to see his victory coming in advance.
Baquet said he was concerned about Trump’s remarks about the media.
“First off, the things he has said about the press in general are troublesome,” Baquet said. “He has said things that should make all journalists nervous about his view of the First Amendment, about his view of a press that’s supposed to ask him tough questions. So that makes me nervous.”
Please. It’s never been about “tough questions,” and it’s laughable to see Baquet on television pretending that’s what it is. To the extent that Trump has attacked the press (and the New York Times in particular), it has been largely justified by horrible, biased reporting. No one can deny that, least of all anyone familiar with the Times. They weren’t just in the tank for Hillary Clinton; they practically turned their paper into an official campaign publication.
The Wall Street Journal’s Baker said he was instructing his staffers to avoid making inflammatory comments on social media. He said it wasn’t necessarily appropriate for journalists to cover Trump in an antagonistic way. When Todd asked him if he would be willing to call out the president-elect on his “lies,” Baker argued that there were less confrontational ways to get the point across.
“I’d be careful about using the word, ‘lie,’” Baker said. “‘Lie’ implies much more than just saying something that’s false. It implies a deliberate intent to mislead.”
He said the better approach was to report Trump’s claims, report the facts as the paper knew them, and let readers reach their own conclusions.
“It’s up to the reader to make up their own mind to say, ‘This is what Donald Trump says. This is what a reliable, trustworthy news organization reports.’ I think if you start ascribing a moral intent, as it were, to someone by saying that they’ve lied, I think you run the risk that you look like you’re not being objective,” he said.
See, this is more in line with responsible journalism. No one’s saying that the media needs to shower Donald Trump with praise morning and night. But if they could just treat him with half the respect they treated Barack Obama, it would be a vast improvement over what we’re seeing now.