Gabriel Sherman writes in New York Magazine that President-elect Donald Trump got the upper hand against the media on Wednesday by turning his first post-election press conference “into a debate over journalistic practices.”
From New York Magazine:
But observed as spectacle, Trump came away with a resounding victory. That’s because Trump won even before he stepped before the microphone, by making the media the story. Last night, BuzzFeed published a salacious 35-page oppo-research dossier on Trump that alleged Russia possessed sexual and financial dirt on Trump that could be used to blackmail him. BuzzFeed justified reporting the unverified oppo-research document — which had been compiled during the presidential campaign by a political operative working for Trump’s Republican rivals — by stating that intelligence agencies had briefed Trump on a summary of the findings last week. But BuzzFeed’s article boomeranged back on the website as journalists were quick to denounce its decision to publish unconfirmed claims and errors. (CNN broke news of the intelligence briefing, but did not print the sensational details.)
For the most part, Trump remained calm and jocular (except when he refused to call on CNN reporter Jim Acosta, yelling “You are fake news!”). He invited reporters to the White House the week after his inauguration. He left the bad-cop routine to his press secretary, Sean Spicer, who called BuzzFeed “a left-wing blog” and said the decision to publish was “outrageous and highly irresponsible.”
The cumulative result is that Trump turned what should have been a serious examination of his incoming administration into a debate over journalistic practices and Michael Cohen’s travel itinerary. BuzzFeed deserves some of the blame for this. Journalists receive oppo research frequently during political campaigns, but publish only what they can verify. By amending this standard for Trump, BuzzFeed handed him an opening to play the victim. Trump thrives in a world where facts are fungible. As the journalist Masha Gessen, who’s covered Putin’s Russia for years, tweeted: “We are now fully immersed in the anonymous, the unverified, and the unverifiable. And he hasn’t even taken office. Trumpism sure is fast.”
Read the rest here.