Weinstein abused the press, too.

The only reason one will respect you as a journalist is because of your integrity. Your integrity is based on your credibility. Your credibility comes from your truthfulness.

Shaka Ssali, a Ugandan born American journalist


Sexual harassment isn’t Harvey Weinstein’s only sin and women weren’t his only victims. He has also wounded journalists.

Yes, I know, the public’s mistrust of the media is already extreme, but the Weinstein imbroglio has made things worse. It did so by using journalists in his effort to discredit his accusers and employing fake journalists to ferret out damaging information on them.

I’m sensitive to this because I worked as a reporter for 10 years and learned a lot of lessons about the importance of honesty and trust in journalism.

I once investigated an apparent scam artist who was purportedly bilking people out of their money. I was making a lot of progress when the man got suspicious and asked if I was a reporter. I figured it was OK to fudge, so I hemmed and hawed and didn’t admit that I was. When I told my editor what I’d done he pulled me off the story. “We do not conceal our identity as a reporter when asked,” he said. “It undermines our credibility.”


In the Weinstein case, clearly, no such standards of truthfulness or integrity applied to:

  • Black Cube, a private intelligence agency hired by Weinstein to undermine his accusers (Ronan Farrow, who broke the Weinstein spying story in the New Yorker, identified Black Cube as a key player in the Weinstein case).
  • Dylan Howard, the chief content officer of American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, who passed on to Weinstein’s people information gleaned by his reporters.
  • The freelance writer hired by Black Cube who passed on information from women with allegations against Weinstein, including the actress Annabella Sciorra, who later went public in The New Yorker with a rape allegation against Weinstein, or
  • Other journalists enlisted by Weinstein to uncover information he could use to compromise the credibility of women he’d abused.

Unfortunately, Weinstein isn’t the only guilty party in the reporter impersonation game. Recent incidents include:

  • In April 2017, Barron’s, a prominent financial magazine, said it had learned that somebody posing as one of its reporters contacted investment researchers, a hedge fund and the editor of the Capitol Forum, a Washington media outfit, about a controversial stock.
  • On Nov. 15, the Washington Post reported that a robocall from someone posing as a Post reporter offering money for “damaging remarks” about Alabama Republican Roy Moore was fake.
  • Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported that on Nov. 13, 2017, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments in a case that grew out of an FBI agent pretending to be an Associated Press journalist as part of an investigation into bomb threats at a high school in Washington state.

In 2015, AP’s general counsel, Karen Kaiser, wrote to then-U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. that the government’s conduct in the Washington case raised “serious constitutional concerns.”

“I think it could erode people’s trust in reporters if one of your sources doesn’t know whether you’re really a reporter or the police,” Aaron Caplan, a professor at Loyola Law School, told the Los Angeles Times. “They may be less willing to share information with you. That hurts the public.”

That’s equally true if the public isn’t sure if doesn’t know if you are a real reporter investigating a story or a snitch for the story’s subject.

The behavior of Weinstein’s minions is a shameful abuse of journalism. The media and the public are going to be dealing with its repercussions for a very long time.





Creating A New Blue Bubble


One week after Donald Trump’s inauguration, editors from CNN, Slate, Univision, The New Yorker, and The Huffington Post plan to huddle for a discussion on how to cover the Trump presidency.

The collusion has begun.

“Join Slate for a conversation with top editors in New York about how the news media can and should proceed to cover the Trump presidency,” says an e-mail making its way around the major media universe. “The panel will discuss strategies they are implementing at their outlets, and how journalists and media companies at large can play a bigger role in making sure that fact prevails over fiction in the coming months and years.”

The e-mail, reported by Mediaite, says proceeds from the Jan. 25 event at the NYU Skirball Center will go to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit dedicated to the global defense of press freedom. This is the same committee actress Meryl Streep urged people to support in her controversial Golden Globe remarks.

Slate is bringing the media together to advance a liberal  post-election agenda, just as the Democratic Party is using the confirmation process for Trump’s cabinet nominees as a first step in a rebuilding effort.

“That effort includes getting opposition research and outside messaging groups into high gear, fundraising off of certain confirmation hearing highlights or controversies regarding some  nominees, and coming up with a way to paint the administration they will run against in four years in an unflattering light,” said Caitlin Huey-Burns in Real Clear Politics.

The gathering is consistent with a call by New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg for reporters to present “a united front”.

A united front for press freedom is an admirable goal. A united front to attack a presidency is not.

But if you regularly follow Slate, Univision, The New Yorker, and The Huffington Post, they are already consistent in their disparagement of Trump and his coterie of advisers and supporters.

The current New Yorker, for example, has a cover portraying Trump as a child taking off in the family car with the hope he’ll be apprehended before he can do too much damage.


The magazine itself features multiple stories denigrating Trump and his allies. One accuses Trump of being “a clumsy bigfoot” with his comments on contributions to his campaign from an L.L. Bean family member. Other stories lambaste Trump’s inaugural festivities, liken Trump to Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonalds, in an upcoming movie that “conspires to smooth any wrinkles of villainy”, and take on Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and Trump supporter, in an odd piece about his views on Star Trek vs. Star Wars,

This all reminds me of the much-maligned JournoList, a private Google Groups forum for discussing politics and the media with membership consisting of 400 left-leaning journalists, pundits, academics and others. The forum, active during 2007-10, was accused of encouraging and facilitating coordinated messaging supporting liberal views, though many critics asserted any conspiracy theory was overblown.

JournoList did display, however, the inclination for the progressive community to bond over common political and personal biases. The new Slate-driven consortium of progressive publications is likely to head in the same direction, reinforcing their blue bubble as they battle Trump and his policies.

As Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote shortly after the election:

“Much of the mainstream, legacy media continues its self-disgrace. Having failed to kill Donald Trump ’s candidacy they will now aim at his transition. Soon they will try to kill his presidency.”