BuzzFeed News recently abandoned any semblance of journalistic integrity they may have still retained by deciding to publish an unverified, unsubstantiated supposed intelligence dossier detailing how the Russian government had obtained compromising information regarding President-elect Donald Trump.
Perhaps in an effort to mitigate the credibility damage done to his own organization, BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith appeared on what he likely assumed was a friendly news program Wednesday to explain his actions to MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, according to Mediaite.
Though Todd, who has had his own issues with “fake news,” did indeed give Smith ample time to make his case, he nevertheless grilled him, incredulously noting, “You just published fake news!”
In his own defense, Smith spoke of the media as “gatekeepers” of information, deciding what the people should and should not see, and referred several times to the controversy surrounding President Barack Obama’s birth certificate as an example of “fake news” that media outlets had to determine whether to address, according to Breitbart.
“Once, though, it emerges, as it did last night in the public conversation that there is this secret document floating around, full of dark allegations that we will not repeat to you. That I feel like in this era, you really have to share (with) your readers what that is in an appropriate context,” Smith explained, with limited coherence.
“And our original report, I mean, if you read what we wrote, it stressed that there were real solid reasons to distrust this,” he added. “It noted two specific errors.”
When Todd asked if Smith felt he had a responsibility, like all other media outlets, to avoid helping spread false information, Smith replied that it was a “difficult balance” that media organizations had to navigate daily.
“I know this was not your intent, I’ve known you a long time, but you just published fake news. You made a knowing decision to put out an untruth,” Todd exclaimed, according to The Hill.
Smith replied that he felt his organization had a responsibility to inform its readers of the allegations regarding Trump and Russia.
“I think people love to throw the phrase ‘fake news’ around to diminish anything they don’t like,” Smith stated, apparently forgetting that he himself had been at the forefront of those on the left harping incessantly over “fake news” while at the same time perpetuating it.
“I think this is a real story about a real document. You see these things spread and you have to engage them,” Smith continued. “When top officials are making decisions on it, not just seeing it, I think it’s appropriate to let your audience see it and say whether they think it’s nonsense.”
But Todd questioned whether Smith’s actions had damaged media integrity as a whole, and seemed to indicate that Smith’s ode to transparency rang hollow, remarking that “(t)ransparency can turn into a crutch, can turn into laziness.”
You can watch the entire segment here:
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) January 11, 2017
BuzzFeed made a terrible decision in publishing the intelligence dossier, a decision that virtually every other media outlet had wisely forgone, for good reason.
Ben Smith should be ashamed of the choice he made, and BuzzFeed should go back to publishing the lists and quizzes that earned them internet fame in the first place, leaving the real political reporting to the professionals, or at least those with some sense of integrity.
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