(Cartoon image is by John Cole in the Scranton Times-Tribune.)
A few days ago, the editor of the Wall Street Journal was on NBC's Meet The Press. What he said there was very disappointing. He said his newspaper would not be using the word "lie" when discussing the falsehoods by Donald Trump. His reasoning for that was:
I'd be careful about using the word, "lie." "Lie" implies much more than just saying something that's false. It implies a deliberate intent to mislead. I think it's perfectly -- when Donald Trump says thousands of people were on the rooftops of New Jersey on 9/11 celebrating, thousands of Muslims were there celebrating, I think it's right to investigate that claim, to report what we found, which is that nobody found any evidence of that whatsoever, and to say that.
I think it's then up to the reader to make up their own mind to say, "This is what Donald Trump says. This is what a reliable, trustworthy news organization reports. And you know what? I don't think that's true." I think if you start ascribing a moral intent, as it were, to someone by saying that they've lied, I think you run the risk that you look like you are, like you're not being objective.
I disagree, and so does Dan Rather. Here is Rather's reply:
A lie, is a lie, is a lie. Journalism, as I was taught it, is a process of getting as close to some valid version of the truth as is humanly possible. And one of my definitions of news is information that the powerful don't want you to know.
So this statement (see attached article) from the editor in chief of the Wall Street Journal about how his paper will report on Donald Trump’s potential (likely?) future lies is deeply disturbing. It is not the proper role of journalists to meet lies—especially from someone of Mr. Trump’s stature and power—by hiding behind semantics and euphemisms. Our role is to call it as we see it, based on solid reporting. When something is, in fact, a demonstrable lie, it is our responsibility to say so.
There is no joy in taking issue with the Journal’s chief editor. His newspaper is a publication for which I have deep respect for the overall quality of its reporting. But, as I have said before and will say as long as people are willing to listen, this is a gut check moment for the press. We are being confronted by versions of what are claimed to be “the truth” that resemble something spewed out by a fertilizer-spreader in a wind tunnel. And there is every indication that this will only continue in the Tweets and statements of the man who will now hold forth from behind the Great Seal of the President of the United States.
Some journalists and publications will rise to the occasion. Some will not. You as the paying, subscribing public, can use your leverage and pocketbooks to keep those who should be honest brokers of information, well, honest.