Politics will eventually reveal the truth. As long as there is a small number of honest, independent journalists willing to take on the risk for the record, then at least.
Jeff Gerth is a former New York Times investigative journalist and Pro-Publica journalist. The Press Versus The President is his latest series in Columbia Journalism Review. It provides an in-depth, air-tight indictment of media malpractice that degrades journalism, and journalists, from 2016 through the present.
It’s almost impossible to summarize in a few words the seriousness of American journalism’s failures in reporting on Trump’s presidency, and the many allegations that led up to “Russiagate”. These graphs are a solid start, based on part one of Gerth’s masterful reporting.
The Edelman Trust barometer found that Americans trusted traditional media prior to 2016. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, “Americans trusted traditional media before the 2016 election.”
A 2022 study by the Reuters Institute of the Study of Journalism found that fake news was a major problem for Americans in 2021. 56 percent of Americans, mostly Republicans, and 56% of independents agreed that fake news was an enemy of the American people in 2021.
This data point which shows that over half of Americans consider media to be “the enemy of the American people” should give cause for concern to anyone who works on any news website, cable news outlet, newspaper, or news analysis website.
If American journalism fails in its duty to improve, there will be outlets for news media in the future. But they won’t be recognizable because of the guarantee of the Founders of the First Amendment that independent media would serve as a check against the government and for those of us who have spent decades in newsrooms or practiced a profession that relies on documentation and verification for its reputation.
It is easy to see the core of the crisis in American journalism through another lens. There were thousands upon thousands of articles published by the Washington Post, and the New York Times during Trump’s first weeks. These articles, which were largely led by the Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post, surpassed the four-year period to come. They believed the Steele Dossier without question.
Numerous congressional investigations were carried out. An important investigation of the FBI was conducted by the Department of Justice Inspector General. Robert Mueller, the former FBI Director, was named as a Special Counsel to determine the truth behind the main claim in the dossier that Russian intelligence had supported Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Gerth describes Mueller’s impact and scope. It cost more than 30 million dollars in taxes.
The inquiry attracted a lot of interest and issued more than 2,800 subpoenas. The inquiry also interviewed 500 witnesses.
Mueller concluded Mueller didn’t find any evidence that Trump Campaign conspired with or coordinated with Russia.
The majority of mainstream media did not acknowledge Mueller’s conclusion. The majority of mainstream media did not acknowledge the conclusion of Mueller’s investigation.
It is important to note that Gerth refers only to part 4 of his analysis. He describes a meeting between Paul Manafort (then Trump campaign manager) and Konstantin Kilmnik, a shadowy Ukrainian business associate, in August 2016. The latter is often portrayed as an intelligence asset of Russia.
Gerth informs us that the Senate report called the meeting “the single most significant direct tie” between Trump Campaign officials and Russian intelligence services. It also described it as a “grave counterintelligence risk” to the United States. ”
Gerth says that even the most crucial direct link isn’t supported by evidence.
“As for Kilimnik possibly being a Russian spy, Ukraine’s only official investigation in 2016 did not lead to any charges. These claims were made by the Senate Intelligence Panel (2020) or Treasury Department (2021). These claims did not offer any evidence.
Inversely, FBI documents and State Department documents prove that Kilmnik was a sensitive source.
This is because the man who claimed to be most convincing that there were direct links between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence actually worked at the U.S. State Department
Watergate Bob Woodward, Dean of American “Gotcha” investigative journalism, described the dossier as a negative one.
Journalists need to learn quickly from Wes Pruden (my ex-editor at Washington Times) the truth: “Get it right the first time.”