Friday, December 9, 2016

News Organization Not Taking Fake News Seriously

Dean Baquet, New York Times Executive Editor, wishes he'd paid attention to fake news sooner.

"Not early enough, to be honest." That was Dean Baquet's response when Terry Gross asked him on "Fresh Air" yesterday when he became aware of the fake news phenomenon.

"I bet most editors would say that. ... I mean, I would get stuff myself in my email and on my Facebook feed with outlandish allegations about the Clintons and outlandish allegations about other people."

"I guess I thought at the time ... we could ignore it and that people were ignoring it. ... But I ... wish I had paid more attention to it earlier than I did."

"I bet every news organization is saying that now. We wrote about it, but I wish we had paid more attention to it. I just thought some of it was so outlandish. I mean, even the most outlandish one that's come into the news in recent days that the Clintons ran a child porn ring out of a pizza shop in Washington, D.C. I guess I thought nobody would believe that. I thought that was so outlandish a claim."

"I think that if I understood then what I understand now I would have taken it much more seriously. I think there's a group of people who are saying enough. I want somebody who just tells me the truth, tells me the facts. But I do think that if there's so much fake news and so much stuff that people are believing, of course, it hurts all of us. And I think Facebook and other platforms need to take it seriously within the First Amendment, of course. And I think we need to devise more ways to go after it, write about it and sort of take it down, meaning to make clear that it's not true. Of course, if you read the follow-up to Mike Flynn's son being removed from the transition operation, you'll also see that there were people who came back even after the shooting and said they still thought it - they still believed it."

"I don't think Trump would have particular success changing the libel laws. But I think a president of the United States who does not like the press can do a lot. I mean, even the Obama administration, which people thought of as friendly to the press, dramatically increased the number of journalists who got subpoenaed, dramatically increased the number of leak investigations. I don't think Trump can do much damage to the libel laws in this country, though some lawyers may disagree with me. I think a president who chooses to go after the press could do some real damage. He can make it harder to cover him. He can make it harder to go to his press conferences. He can make it - he could have fewer press conferences."

"People think that journalists are whining when they complain that press conferences are important. But the difference between a press conference and a tweet is you can't ask a question of a tweet. You can certainly ask a question at a press conference. You can ask hard questions at press conferences. So I think that journalists are worried. I think that President-elect Trump has personalized his distaste for independent journalists and made it clear that he likes journalists who say nice things about him."

"I have met him. When I was a reporter on the Metro staff of The New York Times, I covered a hearing. And I - I mean, I was 30. And he called me after the hearing just to see how accurate my story was (laughter). He was buttering me up. And the first time he came to The New York Times and he met with the editorial board and I was there just as a bystander, he sent a handwritten note afterward just saying how great it was to meet and how great my question was. I 'm sure he wrote that note to 200 reporters, but all I'm saying this is - this guy's relationship with the press is really complex, really, really complex. It's not - it's not just screaming at the press. It's a really complex relationship."

"I have never encountered a presidential candidate who is easier to get on the phone and to defend himself and to say what he has to say. Go back and look at all of the coverage, all the tough stories about Donald Trump done by big news organizations like ours. He picks up the phone. He gives you comment, gives you denials."

"I say all that to say this is a complicated guy. It would be a mistake for people to say this is just a guy who wants to kill all reporters. This is a guy who also lives - and has died on occasion - by the press. This is a guy who pretty much owned Page Six in the New York Post. This is a guy who is a salesman. This is a guy who toots his own horn. This is a guy who likes to talk to reporters. This is a guy writes handwritten notes to reporters. But it's also a guy who has said some of the most vile things about journalists of any politician of his generation."

"There is no question that we have a truly unusual figure who's about to occupy the White House, who won the election, by the way. And he's bringing along with him other truly unusual figures. My plan is to double down on explanatory and investigative reporting in the Washington bureau because I think we have to understand what happens when - what usually happens when unusual figures arrive in Washington, as somebody who's spent a big chunk of his career in Washington, is really interesting things happen. And I want to make sure we're set up to cover that. I want to make sure that we are much more creative about beats out in the country so that we understand that anger and disconnectedness that people feel. And I think I use religion as an example because I was raised Catholic in New Orleans. I think that the New York-based and Washington-based too probably, media powerhouses don't quite get religion. We have a fabulous religion writer, but she's all alone. We don't get religion. We don't get the role of religion in people's lives. And I think we can do much, much better. And I think there are things that we can be more creative about to understand the country. That's how I look at it. I now have two big jobs. Big job one is to cover the most compelling and unusual president we have had in my lifetime. Big job two is to really understand and explain the forces in America that led to Americans wanting a change so much that they were willing to select such a different figure for the White House. Those are my two big jobs."

"I think balance is sort of a - is a - and I'm not sure I buy the constructive balance. To me, it's fairness. You should always ask yourself - you would never say I've done 17.3 stories that the Clinton campaign isn't going to like, and I've only done 14.7 stories that the Trump campaign isn't going to like. So let me do 3.6 more that the Trump campaign isn't going to like. I think you'll - your - not only will your head explode, but that's imbalanced coverage because to do that, you're actually having to turn up the volume on other stories to make them equal to the others. No. I think you say we want to be fair. Fairness could mean that some candidate gets tougher coverage. Fairness could mean, you know, that you look at Hillary Clinton's record on foreign policy. And we actually did a two-part series on Hillary Clinton's role in shaping Libya policy which is her most important foreign policy endeavor. We didn't do a two-part series on Donald Trump's foreign policy. He didn't have one. We did much, much more reporting on Donald Trump's finances because the Clinton - we did much reporting on the Clinton Foundation. We didn't do much reporting on the Clinton's finances because their personal finances were not in the league with Donald Trump, and they weren't running as successful business people."

"I think once you get into the actual measurement of metrics, you make yourself crazy, and, in fact, you'll actually end up being unfair because you will have to do more of something and less of something else. And the rule to me is - this is going to sound weird - but the rule is you want each campaign to think you were really tough on them, and that's what happened in this case. That's for sure. I don't think any candidate of the Republicans or the Democrats from Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump thought we were not tough on them. I think they all thought we were tough on them and said it."

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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