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Jeffrey Goldberg's insane 'Trump called troops suckers' piece is a new low

Ted Rall on

Jeffrey Goldberg wrote an article for The Atlantic that could harm President Donald Trump's chance to win reelection. Setting aside the controversial content of the remarks attributed to the president, it is important to note that this is an atrocious example of journalism.

You could almost call it "fake news."

And corporate media is taking it at face value.

You may think Trump is a turd -- I do. You may want him to lose the election -- I do. (I also want Joe Biden to lose, but that's another column.) You may believe that Trump probably said what Goldberg reports -- I think there's a good chance. But everyone who cares about journalism ought to be deeply disturbed by the nonexistent sourcing for this story and its widespread acceptance by media organizations that ought to know better.

It's easy to see why Democratic-leaning media corporations jumped all over Goldberg's piece: It hurts the president, and it reinforces militarism. But they're degrading journalistic standards to manipulate an election.

According to Goldberg, four anonymous sources told him that Trump called American Marines who died in World War I "losers" and repeatedly questioned why anyone smart would join the military or be willing to risk their life by fighting in one of America's wars.

 

Anonymous sources have their place. I have used them. But basing a news story entirely on accounts of people who are unwilling to go on the record is journalistically perilous and ethically dubious. There are exceptions, as when a Mafia source fears physical retribution.

There is no such claim here. Most media organizations' ethical guidelines are clear: News without attribution is not news. It is gossip.

The Los Angeles Times, a publication my readers know I hold in low regard, nevertheless takes a stance against anonymous sources. "When we use anonymous sources, it should be to convey important information to our readers. We should not use such sources to publish material that is trivial, obvious or self-serving," the paper's ethical standards say. "An unnamed source should have a compelling reason for insisting on anonymity, such as fear of retaliation, and we should state those reasons when they are relevant to what we publish."

The Atlantic piece falls way short.

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