Wall Street Journal editor hits out at own reporters' coverage of Donald Trump

Gerard Baker takes staff to task over Phoenix rally, accusing journalists of being too opinionated and offering 'selective criticism' of President

Michael M. Grynbaum
Thursday 24 August 2017 07:48 BST
Gerard Baker, the editor in chief of the Wall Street Journal
Gerard Baker, the editor in chief of the Wall Street Journal (Andrew Burton/Getty)

Gerard Baker, the editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, has faced unease and frustration in his newsroom over his stewardship of the newspaper’s coverage of President Donald Trump, which some journalists there say has lacked toughness and verve.

Some staff members expressed similar concerns on Wednesday after Baker, in a series of blunt late-night emails, criticised his staff over their coverage of Trump’s Tuesday rally in Phoenix, describing their reporting as overly opinionated.

“Sorry. This is commentary dressed up as news reporting,” Baker wrote at 12.01am on Wednesday to a group of Journal reporters and editors, in response to a draft of the rally article that was intended for the newspaper’s final edition.

He added in a follow-up, “Could we please just stick to reporting what he said rather than packaging it in exegesis and selective criticism?”

A copy of Baker’s emails was reviewed by The New York Times.

Several phrases about Trump that appeared in the draft of the article reviewed by Baker were not included in the final version published on The Journal’s website.

The draft, in its lead paragraph, described the Charlottesville, Virginia, protests as “reshaping” Trump’s presidency. That mention was removed.

The draft also described Trump’s Phoenix speech as “an off-script return to campaign form,” in which the President “pivoted away from remarks a day earlier in which he had solemnly called for unity.” That language does not appear in the article’s final version.

Contacted about the emails Wednesday, a Wall Street Journal spokeswoman wrote in a statement: “The Wall Street Journal has a clear separation between news and opinion. As always, the key priority is to focus reporting on facts and avoid opinion seeping into news coverage.”

In February, Baker fielded tough questions at an all-hands staff meeting about whether the newspaper’s reporting on Trump was too soft. Baker denied that notion, and he suggested that other newspapers had abandoned their objectivity about the President; he also encouraged journalists unhappy with the Journal’s coverage to seek employment elsewhere.

But apprehensiveness in the newsroom has persisted. This month, Politico obtained and published a transcript of a White House interview with Trump conducted by Baker and several Journal reporters and editors. Unusually for an editor-in-chief, Baker took a leading role in the interview and made small talk with Trump about travel and playing golf.

When Ivanka Trump, the President’s older daughter, walked into the Oval Office, Baker told her, according to the transcript, “It was nice to see you out in Southampton a couple weeks ago,” apparently referring to a party that the two had attended.

The Wall Street Journal is owned by media magnate Rupert Murdoch, who speaks regularly with Donald Trump and recently dined with the president at the White House.

The New York Times

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