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Friday, January 13, 2017

Buzzfeed is currently in hot water for publishing a fake news story about Donald Trump and Russian “hookers.” For a period of time, there had been a 35 page “dossier” floating around different news outlets. No news outlet actually published the so-called dossier or any of its’ contents. All that was said about is that it could potentially be compromising information coming from Russia. That they could have blackmail on him, but that’s it. Nothing more was revealed which is the appropriate thing to do. Because nothing inside of the “dossier” had been proven or even corroborated in the slightest. 

This is where the conflict arises. Some news organizations are not as scrupulous as others. Enter: Buzzfeed. Ben Smith, Editor in Chief at Buzzfeed, decided to buck the tried and true ethics of journalism thus entering into yellow journalism at best, outright libel and defamation at worst. They published the entire 35 page dossier, without many retractions at all, and just let people make up their own minds. To their credit, they did try to avoid any libelous situations by saying the report had many errors and was unconfirmed. The problem is… wormy lawyer-speak or not… it’s difficult to tell the intent of them releasing the document.

Did they simply want to put something out into the ether that could damage Donald Trump? That’s what it seems like. A quick glance at the document with any type of common sense would let any person realize that it’s fake. Simple things like the so-called “British intelligence official” who released the document writing things like “World Cup Soccer Tournament” should be a dead giveaway. One of Trump’s lawyers, Michael Cohen, was named as being in Prague in the papers, even though he has never been to Czech Republic before. 

Beyond being obviously fake, this report is embarrassing and potentially legally damaging. Buzzfeed (or at least Ben Smith) thought they would revolutionary and reinvent the wheel of journalism. Instead, they learned how real an age-old proverb is. Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

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