Shame On BuzzFeed: Why The Trump Dossier Shouldn't Have Been Published
On January 10th, while most of America was sitting down to dinner or leaving the office, BuzzFeed was dropping a major “bomb.”
BuzzFeed published an article containing a 35 page dossier that came from a person claiming to be a former British Intelligence officer.
The dossier, which they say several times in the article is unverified, throws out numerous allegations towards President-elect Donald Trump. These include an allegation that the Russian government has been working with the President-elect for at least 5 years, and that the Russian government has also been gathering compromising information about him that been roaming around a select group of people for weeks.
It didn’t take long for the post and dossier to go viral, and everyone began reacting to the dossier, completely forgetting the fact that it was very clear that this information had not been verified by anyone. BuzzFeed’s Editor-In-Chief Ben Smith even states clearly in an email to his staff (which he posted on Twitter) that they published the dossier even though they knew that the information had yet to be verified.
Now I didn’t go to journalism school, but isn’t one of the first rules of journalism to make sure your information is verified BEFORE you publish it? “We have always erred on the side of publishing.” Yeah, and I’ve always erred on the side of going out with guys I know are going to fuck me over, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to continue swiping through Tinder.
The whole point of being a journalist is to give your readers the correct, verified information so they are fully informed in what is going on the world they live in. If you leave it up to Americans to decide whether or not the information you find is true or not, there will be no point in having journalists at all.
Now, I understand that BuzzFeed isn’t technically journalism, but this is exactly how they got away with publishing this information. BuzzFeed knew that we were already going to read whatever they put in front of our faces, so they knew that we wouldn’t hold them to the same standards that we do CNN, The New York Times, and others “journalists”.
BuzzFeed has gained its audience from posting things that didn’t need to be verified. The same people that viewed the article with the dossier also probably looked at the “Leonardo Dicaprio Might Be A Human Puppy” article, (I also viewed that article, so no judgement here.) They knew that they were going to get traction on this article whether or not the information in said article was verified.
If this same article and dossier of unverified information was published about President Obama, all of America would be up in arms, and BuzzFeed would probably lose at least half of its audience. They used the fact that a majority of their audience are not fans of Donald Trump to their advantage. They knew that their audience would believe whatever they posted, so they published the unverified dossier without a second thought.
BuzzFeed was incredibly smart when it came to deciding to publish this information. They knew they had the audience that would make it go viral. In doing so, though, they completely set the world of journalism back several steps. After an entire election season of dealing with “fake news”, this doesn’t do anything to help journalists gain back the integrity they’ve worked years to build.
“Publishing this dossier reflects how we see the job of reporters in 2017” If the job of reporters in 2017 is to publish unverified information, then we might as well pack up our bags and go home, because there will no longer be a need for journalists.