Dec 29, 2019 - Politics & Policy

WaPo editor: Americans may be "numb" to Trump's "15,000 false or misleading claims"

Martin Baron, the executive editor of the Washington Post, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that while Americans may be "numb" to the more than 15,000 false claims made by President Trump and flagged by the Post, the newspaper still has a responsibility to hold "government officials accountable" through aggressive fact-checking.

The big picture: Baron's comments were part of a "Meet the Press" special on the weaponization of disinformation in the era of Trump. Throughout his presidency, Trump has launched an unprecedented number of attacks against the press, often labeling journalists as the "enemy of the people" and casting them as the opposition party.

  • Trump's presidency has coincided with a historic divide in trust toward the news media. Pew recorded in September 2018 a 44% gap between Democratic and Republican support for the media's role in holding government officials accountable.
  • Republicans and Democrats were almost equally likely to support the news media’s "watchdog" role during the Obama administration.

Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the New York Times, said on the "Meet the Press" that journalists once assumed people inherently trusted the media. Now, he said, journalists must prove their work in order to gain readers' trust.

  • "What I think we're going to have to get very aggressive at is to be really transparent, to assume nothing, and to make sure people know where we are, how we do our work, to show our work more aggressively. That's a different muscle for us," Baquet said.
  • Baquet cited the Washington Post's recent project on "The Afghanistan Papers," in which the newspaper published documents to support its reporting, as an example of how the media can "market" its journalism and defend the truth.

What's next: Going forward, Baron said journalists should be "open-minded" when they approach any story. "We should be listeners, more than talkers. And we should be willing to listen to everyone," Baron said.

  • "I think great journalists are empathetic, which means they listen, and they try to understand," Baquet said. "That's not pandering. And then, I think the most-powerful word, for me, is independent, independent, which means independent of everybody, by the way, except, except our principles and our readers."

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