I've never had much respect for BuzzFeed.
But I have only contempt for it now. And it is not just for publishing information about President-elect Donald Trump and Russia that it did not verify. It's also for Ben Smith, BuzzFeed's editor, attempting to explain the move in high-sounding rhetoric suggesting that doing so is what journalism looks like today.
"Publishing this document was not an easy or simple call, and people of good will may disagree with our choice," Smith wrote in a memo to BuzzFeed staffers that was made public. "But publishing this dossier reflects how we see the job of reporters in 2017."
I hope printing innuendo and rumor of highly questionable provenance is not the job of reporters in 2017, or this profession has become more debased than the harshest of our critics contends.
In crossing one of the few lines left for mainstream news outlets, a demand for some level of verification, BuzzFeed could not have given Trump better ammunition with which to vilify the press as dishonest, biased and all the other claims he makes in trying to inoculate himself against valid criticism.
I am not going to print any of the allegations here. You can go to BuzzFeed and put yourself in its grubby hands if you want to see 35 pages of gossip about Trump and Russia.
The word "dossier" has been used to describe it. But that's as phony as the language Smith used to try and wrap his site's reckless click-chasing in the mantle of journalism.
If BuzzFeed was really doing anything approaching journalism in trying to confirm the information it published, it would have known that the "dossier" had been available to other journalists and they passed on it because they could not confirm.
On Oct. 31, David Corn of Mother Jones wrote a story headlined: "A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump."
That's as much as he could confirm, and that's all he and Mother Jones responsibly reported as he explained where the information came from.
And there it sat until U.S. intelligence agencies included a two-page summary of the information in that "dossier" to President Obama and possibly Trump.
Tuesday, CNN reported on the summary without detailing what was in it. (CNN said the summary went to both Obama and Trump. NBC News said today only Obama got it.)
Either way, BuzzFeed picked up the ball and published all of it – racing down the field untouched into the wrong end zone of American media life.
Trump lashed out at BuzzFeed in his press conference today, calling it a "failing pile of garbage." He also refused to take a question from a CNN correspondent Jim Acosta.
"I'm not going to give you a question," Trump told Acosta. "You are fake news."
I wish he had saved all his wrath for BuzzFeed, which clearly deserves it.
Thanks to BuzzFeed, all of us in the press are diminished.
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Worse, instead of verified information they can trust, citizens get more salacious rumor from the Web and rancor from the president-elect.