A couple of weeks ago, we noted that the Wall Street Journal may want to think about cc’ing Donald Trump on its new social media policy for reporters which, among other things, stipulates that when it comes to Twitter posts, a good rule of thumb is this: “if in doubt, don’t post it.”
Right. So you can see how that would apply to Donald Trump, who quite literally lobs 140-character threats of nuclear war at foreign leaders.
The reason we wanted to connect the dots between WSJ’s new social media policy and Donald Trump is because over the course of 2017, the Journal – and especially the editorial page – has become something akin to Breitbart for people who don’t want to admit they read Breitbart:
the @WSJ Opinion page is now just Breitbart for people who don't want to have to say they read Breitbart.
— Walter White (@heisenbergrpt) October 2, 2017
This is part and parcel of an ongoing shift towards Trump-friendly coverage and comes amid reports that editor-in-chief Gerard Baker has taken on an almost adversarial attitude towards his own employees when it comes to covering the President.
WSJ’s bias was laid bare earlier this year when Politico got ahold of the full transcript of an interview WSJ editor-in-chief Gerard Baker conducted with Donald Trump.
That interview was the subject of what amounted to a puff piece the Journal ran on July 25.
One of the things Politico notes in their piece introducing the transcript is that Baker took the lead byline on the story about the interview, “an unusual step for the editor in chief of a paper with a large White House reporting staff.”
Of course it doesn’t seem so “unusual” when you consider that Baker has reportedly taken an aggressively defensive stance towards his own employees with regard to what many believe is hopelessly biased coverage of Donald Trump’s presidential trials and tribulations. Consider this excerpt from the Politico article, for instance:
Baker has defended his paper in the past from criticism, both internal and external, that the broadsheet has been too soft on the real estate mogul and reality-television star-turned-45th president of the United States.
In an internal town hall with employees in February, Baker said that anyone who claims the Journal has been soft on Trump is peddling “fake news,” and that employees who are unhappy with the Journal’s objective, as opposed to oppositional, approach to Trump should work somewhere else.
Nope – nothing suspicious about that.
Well as it turns out, Baker was pretty damn frustrated with his staff’s initial draft of a story about Trump’s batsh*t crazy Phoenix rally (the one from August), going so far as to demand the removal of the following largely innocuous phrases from the piece the Journal would eventually run:
The speech was an off-script return to campaign form.
Trump pivoted away from remarks a day earlier in which he had solemnly called for unity.
Those statements are true. That is: that’s just what happened. There’s no bias inherent in the phrasing, and even if you want to say there’s some veiled cynicism in there, it’s so tame as to be virtually meaningless. I mean would anyone (other than Trump) seriously read those two sentences and think “wow, really unfair”?
Well anyway, The New York Times got its hands on some of the e-mails Baker sent to his staff. To wit, from the Times‘ piece on this:
Gerard Baker, the editor in chief of The Wall Street Journal, has faced unease and frustration in his newsroom over his stewardship of the newspaper’s coverage of President Trump, which some journalists there say has lacked toughness and verve.
Some staff members expressed similar concerns on Wednesday after Mr. Baker, in a series of blunt late-night emails, criticized his staff over their coverage of Mr. Trump’s Tuesday rally in Phoenix, describing their reporting as overly opinionated.
“Sorry. This is commentary dressed up as news reporting,” Mr. Baker wrote at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday morning to a group of Journal reporters and editors, in response to a draft of the rally article that was intended for the newspaper’s final edition.
He added in a follow-up, “Could we please just stick to reporting what he said rather than packaging it in exegesis and selective criticism?”
Recently, the editorial page has become nothing short of egregious in their coverage of Robert Mueller, prompting tweets like this one from former high-ranking Journal editor Bill Grueskin:
— Bill Grueskin (@BGrueskin) October 30, 2017
Well now, in yet another bombshell-ish piece, Vanity Fair is out documenting what they’re describing as “a civil war” between the editorial page and the paper’s reporters who are concerned about the Journal’s credibility.
And while VF notes that this isn’t really anything “new” (per se) at WSJ, things are, well, “different this time.” To wit:
The friction is, in some ways, a hallmark of the institution. A decade ago, an editorial-page columnist attacked a 2006 Journal series about the practice of backdating stock-option awards that went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. The page also once defended billionaire junk-bond king Michael Milken, who got a 10-year sentence for securities fraud in 1990 based in part on exposés by Journal reporters. Nevertheless, several Journal veterans I spoke with described the current rift as among the more fractious they’ve witnessed. “It does feel like this is a different level of crazy,” the veteran editor said.
Yes, a “different level of crazy,” that recently included a series of almost bizarre posts about the FBI that border on the conspiratorial. Here’s VF again:
The entry that really made people spit out their coffee, however, was an editorial published last week declaring that Mueller, who once ran the F.B.I., “lacks the critical distance to conduct a credible probe.” It also proposed that Mueller “could best serve the country by resigning to prevent further political turmoil over that conflict of interest.”
The piece was published on October 25, but it didn’t explode until Sunday, when Twitter was flooded with disparaging reactions as media and political junkies eagerly awaited the following morning’s indictment fireworks. “There are no words to describe how disgraceful and dangerous this coordinated attack against Robert Mueller is,” noted Joe Scarborough. Recode’s Kara Swisher, a Journal alum, sneered, “I feel sorry for every decent reporter at the WSJ for this claptrap from Rupert Murdoch’s ever desiccated soul.”
To be clear, the problem here is that this is an ostensibly credible outlet – or at least it used to be. As we put it last month:
This is the Wall Street Journal we’re talking about here. Sure, they’ve got a conservative lean, but it looks like Baker is asking reporters to avoid describing the events as they happened.
Everyone knows not to take Breitbart seriously and the same goes for Fox. But by throwing their support behind the “cause”, WSJ may end up lending credence to the notion that firing Robert Mueller and thereby triggering a constitutional crisis is a desirable option for Donald Trump.
Apparently, some reporters are abandoning what may be a sinking ship. VF goes on to document multiple high-profile talent departures and notes what’s been obvious to everyone for going on two years – namely this:
The latest editorial-page meshugas has agitated nerves in a newsroom already on edge. In addition to layoffs, buyouts, restructuring, and gender-imbalance concerns, there’s been a well-documented drama this past year-and-a-half over editor-in-chief Gerry Baker’s direction of the paper’s Trump coverage, and I’m told that murmurs about a looming leadership change have reached a “fever pitch.”
Well count us among those who believe that some kind of “change” is long overdue.
There is no defending this President anymore. Some readers have (jokingly) asked how we feel about a recent comment from Bryan Cranston (not a Trump supporter) who told the Hollywood Reporter the following earlier this week:
President Trump is not the person who I wanted to be in that office, and I’ve been very open about that. That being said, he is the president. If he fails, the country is in jeopardy,” he said. “It would be egotistical for anyone to say, ‘I hope he fails.’ To that person I would say, fuck you. Why would you want that? So you can be right? I don’t want him to fail. I want him to succeed. I do. I honestly do.
We would say the same thing to Cranston that we would say to the Journal: it’s one thing to want someone to fail. It’s another thing to want someone who has already failed gone. The former is called “being a hater.” The latter is called “common fucking sense.”