Commentary

'WSJ' Steers Neutral Course On Trump

Most of America’s major newspapers and news media organizations have made no secret of their feelings about President Donald Trump, in both their journalism and editorial writing. There’s one notable exception, The Wall Street Journal.

Editor-in-chief Gerard Baker has been trying to steer a more neutral course on the president, in part by pushing back on what he considers overt editorializing by reporters assigned to straight news.

Baker made at least one such intervention to tone down the newspaper’s coverage of Trump’s combative rally in Phoenix, according to WSJ’s rival, The New York Times, which obtained several internal emails from the WSJ edit chief laying down the law.

Among other things, the emails help point out the fine line between interpretation and explication (valid journalistic aims), and opinion and persuasion (the proper realm of the editorial page). 

The NYT reprinted portions of emails in which Baker chastised staffers early Wednesday morning after seeing the first draft of the article covering Trump’s rally, writing, “Sorry. This is commentary dressed up as news reporting.” Baker later remarked: “Could we please just stick to reporting what he said rather than packaging it in exegesis and selective criticism?”

A number of phrases appeared in the first draft of the article that didn’t show up in the published version, suggesting that Baker took particular exception to these. They included a sentence claiming the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, which preceded the Phoenix rally, were “reshaping” Trump’s presidency.

The WSJ also axed a sentence claiming that Trump’s Phoenix speech “pivoted away from remarks a day earlier, in which he had solemnly called for unity.”

It’s unclear whether the emails were leaked to the NYT by disgruntled WSJ reporters on this occasion, but some members of the WSJ newsroom have resorted to similar tactics when displeased with past editorial leadership.

Earlier this month, Politico took a swipe at the WSJ by publishing the entire transcript of an interview between Trump, Baker and other WSJ editors and reporters, after the WSJ only deigned to print excerpts of the interview. It left some newsworthy remarks on the cutting room floor, according to many media pundits.

Politico apparently obtained the transcript from sources within the WSJ newsroom, who disapproved of Baker’s decision not to publicize the full transcript of the interview, as other newspapers routinely do.

8 comments about "'WSJ' Steers Neutral Course On Trump".
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  1. James Boldebook from CBC, August 28, 2017 at 8:55 a.m.

    Pretty damn shameful when there is only one publication playing it 'neutral' .  Trust in the media is at all time low but most of it is biased commentary..not news. 

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, August 28, 2017 at 9:15 a.m.

    Cowards. Greedy cowards.

  3. Ted L from NYC Media, August 28, 2017 at 9:39 a.m.

    Not cowards. Reporting is just that - reporting. I'm a democrat and had to take a sleeping pill when Trump won but WSJ is the only newspaper it seems who remembers what it means to report the news and not editorialize with hyperbole each day. 

  4. Gordon Borrell from Borrell Associates, August 28, 2017 at 10:30 a.m.

    Completely agree with Ted L.   I am a former newspaper reporter and editor, and I voted for Hillary.  But I'm disappointed in today's media and have a very difficult time when, for instance, CNN makes a news story about its anchors "calling out" Trump or when more than half the stories on NBC Nightly News have a definitive negative slant against Trump. I was always trained to be impartial as a reporter, to report the facts of a case and not let my opinion or bias enter.  Readers and viewers will decide for themselves.  Because the vast, vast majority of journalists seem to be trying to denigrate Trump, I'd call it courageous, not cowardly, to stand up and say, "Wait a minute. Let's report what we see, not what we think."

  5. Ted L from NYC Media, August 28, 2017 at 10:38 a.m.

    Amen Gordon

  6. Paul Flowers from CIRCA 46, August 28, 2017 at 11:15 a.m.

    Agree with most everyone one else who has commented. It's sad that there is only one major newspaper that is reporting the news rather than pushing itsown agenda.

  7. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, August 28, 2017 at 12:52 p.m.

    I guess I attended a different school of critical news reading when I was younger, the one that taught me how to mentally "neutralize" any slanted editorializing in a news story.  

    It's very similar to the very simple practice of ignoring, and "reading around" typos.  Thinking that average readers are unable to ignore hyperbole in a news story is like thinking those same readers will assume a misspelled word found in that article must be the "new" official way to spell it. 

    Let's not all take those "fake news" pills just yet. 

  8. David Vossbrink from Retired, August 28, 2017 at 1:04 p.m.

    I hope "neutality" doesn't mean the WSJ won't be rigorously reporting on the flagrant dishonesty, corruption, and incompetence of President Trump and his administration.

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