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.