BuzzFeed editor in chief Ben Smith urged the media to adopt “new rules” to cover the Trump administration in an op-ed in Monday’s New York Times defending the outlet’s widely criticized decision to publish rumors about the president.
Rather than double down on the rules of traditional journalism that worked so well when people got their news from only a few outlets, Smith said journalists should embrace the “chaos” of the new media world. BuzzFeed’s decision to publish the document detailing unverified claims about Trump’s ties with Russia makes sense in this new environment, he argued.
In the piece, Smith wrote:
There is an instinct, easy to understand, to turn away from this chaos. Some legacy media organizations have reacted to the new challenges by retreating to traditional reporting procedures of ostentatious, and sometimes false, balance and voice-of-God authority. Their theory is that the media can confront power by engaging in a theater of traditional journalism and proving their purity and incorruptibility — in short, hew to the same rules that got them steamrolled in 2016.
Without going into detail about which “rules” exactly need to go or what the new rules should be, he continued:
Their retreat is dangerous. Instead, we need to develop new rules that adhere to the core values of honesty and respect for our audience. That means debunking falsehoods, and being transparent with readers about our process of reporting. Sometimes, it means publishing unverified information in a transparent way that informs our users of its provenance, its impact and why we trust it or distrust it.
While CNN reported on the existence of the dossier once the outlet learned Trump was briefed on the rumors by the intelligence community, and other major outlets followed, BuzzFeed was the only outlet to publish the dossier itself.
This report, by Rachel Stoltzfoos, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.