Occasional Air Force layovers at a Trump hotel in Scotland, which were started under Obama, are a pathetic excuse for an exposé.
It’s tough to be an investigative reporter. Everybody who feeds you a tip has an axe to grind. Or, alternatively, you find yourself going, “I wonder if . . . ?” You put in your research, you talk to lots of people, you accumulate a huge pile of information, but you still haven’t proved your hypothesis. A wise reporter says to herself either “I don’t have the story yet” or “I guess this didn’t pan out.” In either event, she doesn’t publish. More likely, since reporters always think they have the story and always want to publish, an editor says, “Kid, you haven’t got the story.”
One of the many rules of the road that have changed in the Trump era is that reporters have taken to blasting out their BREAKING NEWS about scandals that they haven’t actually proven to be scandals. There is so much hay to be made during this administration, so many reporters are becoming superstars, so many comfy houses in Bethesda are being bought with so many large book deals. Any fresh angle you can find on the iniquity of the administration is going to be lapped up eagerly by everyone you know. But what if your new angle isn’t . . . actually. . . the truth?
Danger lurks. It’s damned annoying how many watchmen there are to watch the watchmen these days. But in the end the temptation wins. The shaky story gets blasted out to everyone, it falls apart, and the soiled and tattered reputation of the news media acquires another stain. Short term, no biggie: Reporters know they won’t get fired for being wrong. They get a little dopamine hit of glory from the ersatz scoop, they go on with their lives. They live to fight Trumpism another day. Did Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier of BuzzFeed suffer for falsely reporting that President Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress? Nope. Their position is merely that maybe the story will turn out to be true someday. They haven’t even retracted the story, much less tendered their resignations, much less placed themselves in the stocks of the town square so that passersby can fire tomatoes at them. (BuzzFeed appended a weaselly note to the original story feebly expressing hope that more information would emerge that would back up their story. That ain’t how it works. You get it right first, then publish.)