Last semester I wrote an opinion piece for The Collegian expressing my concern regarding a Donald Trump presidency.
No, I wasn’t concerned about mass deportations (which I still doubt will happen), nor was I concerned about a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (which I also doubt will happen, despite rumors to the contrary).
I was concerned about the future of journalism.
Because of his contentious and antagonistic relationship with the press during his presidential campaign, Trump began suggesting that journalists had too much protection from existing libel laws.
A new Supreme Court justice could solve that “problem” by aiding in the overturning of New York Times v. Sullivan, the landmark case that established the standards that must be met to prove libel. That new Supreme Court justice would, naturally, be nominated by Trump if he won the election.
Now that Trump sits in the White House, I am extremely concerned about the future of journalism. Not because of anything he has done or anything I think he might do. I’m concerned because journalism is doing itself more harm than President Trump ever could.
BuzzFeed, a major news source for millennials, recently published an article documenting alleged misconduct perpetrated by candidate Trump. The allegations ranged from election impropriety to sexual escapades.
BuzzFeed’s source? Per BuzzFeed, it was a “former British intelligence officer,” but it was created by pranksters using the web forum 4chan.
While it wouldn’t be the first time a news outlet was duped by a prankster, BuzzFeed made no attempt to verify the allegations before publishing them, violating one of the most basic rules of journalism.
Many may find it easy to ignore BuzzFeed’s negligence, seeing as it has not yet established itself as a major “go-to” news source for most demographics.
BuzzFeed, however, is poised to become the “new CNN.”
Co-founder and executive chairman Kenneth Lerer co-founded and served as chairman of The Huffington Post. In 2011, Lerer hired Ben Smith of Politico to be editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed in an effort to expand the site’s serious journalistic endeavors.
Whether BuzzFeed is successful in its aspirations remain to be seen.
But if BuzzFeed is truly the future of journalism as many seem to think, Smith’s reaction to the sloppy and reckless reporting practices that have occurred under his watch are quite disturbing.
When addressing the decision to run an article that was dubious in nature and admittedly , Smith replied: “Publishing this dossier reflects how we see the job of reporters in 2017.”
Even after getting scolded by other reporters and news outlets Smith continued to defend BuzzFeed’s journalism by saying, “We are now in a media environment where you have to engage in false statements.”
Rather than err on the side of caution as most journalists are taught to do, Smith advocates libel and slander and justifies it as the new role of reporters in 2017?
Way to show respect to the incredible right journalists have to freedom of the press, Mr. Smith.
If this really is the future of journalism, then go ahead, Trump. Find yourself a Supreme Court justice who will do away with New York Times v. Sullivan.
It looks like we won’t be needing it.