One of my favorite podcasts to listen to is “The New Yorker: Politics and More,” which is put on by the staff at The New Yorker and discusses one relevant topic during each 20-30 minute episodes.
In a recent episode, David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker and one of my favorite journalists, discussed the very important and widely debated topic of how the media should be covering President Trump with Buzzfeed’s editor, Ben Smith.
Remnick starts off by asking Smith about Buzzfeed’s decision to publish the Russian dossier, a set of documents filed with unverified allegations about Trump’s ties to Russia, and the disclaimer put out asking readers to form their own opinion about the allegations.
They talked about the reporting process and how a handful of Buzzfeed reporters had tried to and struggled with verifying the claims put forth in the documents.
Smith explained that publishing the documents was a mix of competitive, moral and journalistic decisions when CNN shared reported that the dossier had been shared with then President Obama and then President-elect Trump.
They went on to ponder the differences between the choices they both make as editors for two different publications.
They talk about a “generational difference,” meaning that while they both produce good journalism, The New Yorker has been around much longer and is considered a member of the legacy media, while Buzzfeed is a child of the internet and acts and treats news in a different way.
Smith argues that as the times have changed and society has evolved, the media needs to change alongside it.
For example, Smith explains that unverified tips should never be published without there being an attempt at proving if they’re true. However, in the case of the dossier, Buzzfeed reporters worked for months on trying to verify the allegations and didn’t succeed. But, their decision to publish them anyways came when CNN shared that the president had been briefed on the dossier, making their content something the public should know about and form their own opinions about their content.
Smith talks about how covering the White House has gone beyond just writing about what the administration shares and says at press conference, but always remain skeptical of what they say and present it in a way that
But at the end of the day, Smith explains that we are in uncharted waters with Trump’s administration, and must be vigilant about the falsehoods they try to present as fact.
I found their discussion to be incredibly insightful and I saw it as something that aspiring journalists like myself need to listen to and understand the points they put forward.