Thanks to Dan Froomkin for dowloading the close captioning from the CJR event on Jeff Gerth’s interminable “Russiagate” [sic] piece. Note that these are garbled in a number of places.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:05:50
The most important and crucial issues that relate to the journalism, profession, so that’s what we’re hoping for.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:05:58
We want to hear your perspectives that we want to engage with the questions around this subject and around this series, and you know, to go from there.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:06:10
And so again, I want to thank Kyle. Hope for being here today.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:06:16
And one thing, Jeff Gerth, for being here to participate in the conversation. And thank you again, Gita.
[Geeta Anand] 13:06:23
Thanks. Julian, and let me just say that I agreed.
[Geeta Anand] 13:06:27
To moderate. For these reasons. One. I wanted to help facilitate a conversation that would provide more transparency and insight into the reporting and publishing of this story also as Dean of a journalism school and a journalist who spent a decade as a
[Geeta Anand] 13:06:44
foreign correspondent. I’m drawn to the same questions that many of the audience asked, and have raised.
[Geeta Anand] 13:06:52
3 is someone who’s worked as a reporter for 30 years, covering local city, state, politics, healthcare, and South Asia as a foreign correspondent.
[Geeta Anand] 13:07:02
I know how challenging it is to report against a provisionive narrative, and I value the type of work that Jeff Garth and all of you set out to undertake, and so I wanted to know more about what happened here and how this all came about and there’s no better way to understand
[Geeta Anand] 13:07:18
what happened than to participate with all of you in a discussion about it.
[Geeta Anand] 13:07:23
And for I’m excited about the potential for this framework that Jelani put forward to illuminate the questions that have arisen.
[Geeta Anand] 13:07:32
And if this works out well, I want to use this framework for responding to criticism of our own school and our own work.
[Geeta Anand] 13:07:41
So I’m also here as an experiment to see how it works.
[Geeta Anand] 13:07:45
My plan is to ask questions of the panelists for an hour and 15 min.
[Geeta Anand] 13:07:51
My questions will be drawn from the question submitted by you.
[Geeta Anand] 13:07:55
The audience in advance, but also through the chat.
[Geeta Anand] 13:07:58
Which is open for myself and the other panelists to see I’ve also drawn, and my questions on the criticisms that have been published, and my own curiosity.
[Geeta Anand] 13:08:11
I wanna ask the panelists in advance for permission to interrupt you if I feel like you’re going on for too long.
[Geeta Anand] 13:08:18
Can I have that permission and redirect you?
[Jeff Gerth] 13:08:21
[Kyle Pope] 13:08:22
[Geeta Anand] 13:08:22
Okay. Let me start with introductions. So just briefly myself as Jellani said, I’m Keitha Ann and I’m Dean of the Uc.
[Geeta Anand] 13:08:30
Berkeley. School of journalism. I’ve been a journalist for 30 years, and I spent the last 10 years of my career as a foreign correspondent covering South Asia for the Wall Street journal and also for the New York Times.
[Geeta Anand] 13:08:43
I’ve so that means I’ve worked at 2 papers that my, the panel this year have also worked out.
[Geeta Anand] 13:08:53
Kyle. I worked at the Wall Street Journal Jeep at the New York Times.
[Geeta Anand] 13:08:58
Have parts may have crossed during that time. I know Jelani I mean. I met him 2 or 3 times, and we’ve had conversations about journal but journalism, education.
[Geeta Anand] 13:09:12
I’m not anywhere near a Retro expert, but I am an excellent journalist and excellent consumer journalism.
[Geeta Anand] 13:09:19
News, and I’m excited to engage with the Panelists here to ask them some of the tough questions, and that many of you have put forward Germany.
[Geeta Anand] 13:09:30
If you want to introduce yourself just in a couple of sentences.
[Geeta Anand] 13:09:31
Everyone knows who you are, but just the most salient things that you think they should know about you in relation to the work that we’re discussing.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:09:40
Hmm! I I’m Jelani Cob obviously, and I’m the Dean of Columbia journalism school.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:09:47
In addition to being the Dean, I’ve been a faculty member here for 7 years.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:09:52
I’m also a staff writer at the New Yorker, and and I think that’s pertinent for a little footnote to this is that I also spent some time in Moscow, as a Fulbright scholar and the 20 tens and I’ve written a little
[Jelani Cobb] 13:10:11
bit about the United States and Russia in my, where my other hat as a historian.
[Geeta Anand] 13:10:17
Thanks, Julani, over to you, Kyle, do you wanna introduce yourself?
[Kyle Pope] 13:10:21
Hi! I’m Kyle Pope. I’m the editor and publisher.
[Kyle Pope] 13:10:24
Of Cjr. Where I’ve been for coming up on 7 years.
[Kyle Pope] 13:10:30
I. Before that I worked as a foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Observer for Condin asked, and I’m happy to be here. Thank you, Keto.
[Geeta Anand] 13:10:43
Thanks, Kyle, and over to you, Jeff.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:10:47
Sure I’m Jeff Gerth been a journalist more than 50 years.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:10:53
Most of it at the New York Times, but also a trunket.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:10:58
Propublica been a freelance journalist, especially the last several years, and I also co-authored a book about 15 years ago.
[Geeta Anand] 13:11:08
Thank you, Jeff. So I’ll start with questions. The first one is for Kyle.
[Geeta Anand] 13:11:15
How did this story come about? Did you approach Jeff, or did he come to you?
[Kyle Pope] 13:11:21
So we knew about, because Jeff and I worked together on a piece about must have been what 2018, I think, and 2017.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:11:31
[Kyle Pope] 13:11:34
And it was a piece about the New York Times, and the sort of dividing line between the business and editorial side of the Times and then there’s there’s been a lot of conflict at the times over this, and there were a lot of signs that a lot of journalists
[Kyle Pope] 13:11:50
at the times were nervous about what was happening. Pressure from the business side, and Jeff wrote a two-part piece about this whole dynamic that was really tough, really thorough, and really in in my mind, successful and not just in my mind.
[Kyle Pope] 13:12:11
I mean a lot of people in journalism thought that these this was a dynamic that hadn’t really been focused on that people needed to pay attention to.
[Kyle Pope] 13:12:21
And I thought it was I frankly thought it was terrific.
[Kyle Pope] 13:12:24
So we publish that together. It was later cited in Jill Abramson’s Book and Other people as as a as an important note on what was happening at the paper but Jeff and I kept in touch.
[Kyle Pope] 13:12:41
And then, you know, we bandied around ideas, and we started talking about molar and trump and Russia.
[Kyle Pope] 13:12:52
And I told Jeff I was really interested in a kind of like, deep, almost kind of a you know.
[Kyle Pope] 13:13:00
If unearthing of the whole history of that dynamic and whole history of that story, because I had a sense of we are where it had finally ended up.
[Kyle Pope] 13:13:11
But I didn’t have a sense of how. And so we just started talking about that.
[Kyle Pope] 13:13:17
And you know Jeff was interested, wasn’t in entirely sure if it was, if it was the right thing to do what it was right for him, whether it was the right moment, and we just kept talking.
[Kyle Pope] 13:13:27
And finally, you know, he signed on. I was enthusiastic from the beginning, because I I remember I don’t remember what year it was, but I remember a couple of moments watching watching cable news and watching how completely all encompassing that the trump Russia story had become
[Kyle Pope] 13:13:49
and and thinking like, I wonder I really wanna understand how we got to this place.
[Kyle Pope] 13:13:57
So that’s the sort of that’s the sort of root of it.
[Kyle Pope] 13:14:01
But the root of it really goes to this first piece that because I hadn’t frankly thought of Jeff as a media reporter previously, I mean, I knew of him.
[Kyle Pope] 13:14:10
I had never worked with him, but when he did that earlier time story I realized he really you had a keen interest in how the media worked, and he had.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:14:17
Gita, before you ask the question. The question you asked Kyle had premises in it that I strongly disagree with and wanna refute.
[Kyle Pope] 13:14:22
He had great sources, and he could pull it off.
[Kyle Pope] 13:14:30
Yeah, yeah. You’re muted.
[Geeta Anand] 13:14:32
Sorry, and another one for you, Kyle. This question is trying to hone in on why, Jeff, for the story, and you’ve explained this in part already.
[Geeta Anand] 13:14:41
Given that Jeff wrote a book that many describe as harshly critical of Hillary Clinton, and many who know him say he’s almost obsessively critical of Hillary, given.
[Geeta Anand] 13:14:51
He’s made some hypotheses in the when holy story and in Whitewater.
[Geeta Anand] 13:14:56
What made you think he was the right person to do this story?
[Geeta Anand] 13:15:01
I know you address this in part, but.
[Kyle Pope] 13:15:02
Yeah, I, mean, I look, I researched all of that before I made the first assignment on the earlier time story.
[Kyle Pope] 13:15:11
And you know Jeff can go into great detail about all that.
[Kyle Pope] 13:15:17
But you know I you know one of the things that impressed me in the earlier piece, and impressed me in this round, and we can say it, and I don’t know if people believe it.
[Kyle Pope] 13:15:31
But I came to believe that Jeff didn’t approach this through a political lens.
[Kyle Pope] 13:15:37
As he will tell you. He’s written tough stories on Republicans.
[Kyle Pope] 13:15:41
He’s written tough stories on Democrats, and I just I don’t think he approaches the world that way.
[Kyle Pope] 13:15:49
And I became convinced of that in the first story, and and as I was talking to him, I mean this reporting process went on for months and months and months and months, and he and I had a lot of conversations, and the more I talked in the more I came convinced that it
[Kyle Pope] 13:16:07
wasn’t. He just didn’t view this through politics.
[Kyle Pope] 13:16:10
He was trained under he really he was really focused on the press.
[Kyle Pope] 13:16:14
He was really focused on media. And how did how did the press make the decisions that it did?
[Kyle Pope] 13:16:20
And I was drawn to this idea of what is a way to understand what?
[Kyle Pope] 13:16:27
What is the way to? Is there a way to look at the coverage of Trump and Russia in a way that we haven’t heard before?
[Kyle Pope] 13:16:35
Is there another point of view on this? And he and he didn’t even I mean, I’m speaking about him is a he wasn’t sitting right in front of me right here, but I don’t even think he viewed it even that way. I don’t.
[Kyle Pope] 13:16:49
Think he viewed it necessarily as a I’m gonna I’m gonna take a contrarian view on this.
[Kyle Pope] 13:16:55
I don’t think he. That’s not the way that I saw I just thought what he was trying to do is say, is there another way to look at what happens?
[Kyle Pope] 13:17:04
And I’m gonna explore that. And I was drawn to that.
[Geeta Anand] 13:17:07
Thanks. Kyle. Jeff. Questions about the your, the practice of journalism.
[Geeta Anand] 13:17:13
I was wondering. Did you go?
[Jeff Gerth] 13:17:27
So can I do that?
[Geeta Anand] 13:17:29
You can, but if you could oops refute them in a speedy way, so we can get to other questions that would be fabulous.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:17:37
Alright! Well, so first of all, mistakes in my reporting that it was in your question.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:17:44
I’ve never made a mistake reporting about Hillary Clinton.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:17:48
I wrote a book, a call-authored, a book with 2,000 footnotes.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:17:53
There was never a request for any correction in the book.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:17:57
As for when holy I never! I was a peripheral player in Winn Hole, and the Federal appeals court unanimously agreed with my motion to remove me from the case, because I had nothing to do in terms of anonymous sources with when
[Jeff Gerth] 13:18:16
holy, so the premise of the question is, I don’t accept the piece that we’re talking about.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:18:23
The series. As far as I know, there’s never been a request from anybody who’s named in the piece or any organization for a correction.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:18:32
The 2 pieces I did for Kyle in 2,017 there was never a request for a request a correction, and nothing was ever corrected, and the white water piece I did.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:18:43
There was never a correction to that piece that so all these mistakes that people that was in your question I don’t know where it came from, but it’s baseless.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:18:54
So let’s just put that to rest and go ahead with your question.
[Geeta Anand] 13:18:58
So I’ll go to my question. But, Jeff, the criticisms of both of those pieces of work of yours when Holy and Whitewater.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:19:09
That wasn’t. That was not my piece of work.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:19:12
That was another author who brought in that piece of work. So I’m a secondary player in that piece.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:19:21
So let’s if that’s straight.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:19:21
Yeah, yeah, I I understand this, Jeff. But please don’t interrupt the moderator.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:19:25
Okay. Alright. Go ahead.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:19:26
If you let the initial question. Thank you.
[Geeta Anand] 13:19:28
Okay. So I’m going to move to my next question, which is about the practice of journalism.
[Geeta Anand] 13:19:34
Did you go into the aftermath of the Russia trump story sifting through the rubble to see what you could find, and then build a story based on what you found.
[Geeta Anand] 13:19:45
Or did you approach the story with a hypothesis and look for evidence to bolster that hypothesis?
[Jeff Gerth] 13:19:50
[Geeta Anand] 13:19:55
Okay, when did you begin reporting the story?
[Jeff Gerth] 13:20:03
Hi! Ironically. It began in Berkeley, I was a fellow at the investigative reporting program, and Berkeley in 2,017 and 2,018, and in the course of that, and there were, I did some work related to Russia, the Dossier which had come out by them and
[Jeff Gerth] 13:20:32
some of the, you know, angles that were coming out related to Trump and Russia.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:20:41
So that was the actual origins of the story.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:20:47
And then, obviously, as time went on, and then the mother report came out in. As Kyle mentioned, we had a a lunch in 2,019 after the Maller report came out that kind of then LED to the decision to go ahead and dig into the story deeper.
[Geeta Anand] 13:21:06
How did you convince Trump to talk to you?
[Jeff Gerth] 13:21:12
Sort of serendipitously. I had no connection to his world.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:21:23
Didn’t know anybody in the Trump White House, but I managed to discover that a lawyer I knew represented one of his aides, and so they put me in touch with the aid.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:21:41
Who are interviewed. And then, after the interview, I said to the 8 I’m hoping to get a interview with Trump, do you have any ideas?
[Jeff Gerth] 13:21:51
And a so let me see if I can help you. And they were able to.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:21:55
I don’t know that full story of how I wound up getting there, but that was the sort of foot in the door that LED to the interview with Trump.
[Geeta Anand] 13:22:04
Thank you. Jeff Julani. What was your involvement in the piece?
[Geeta Anand] 13:22:10
I’m told you read it, and shared some notes.
[Geeta Anand] 13:22:12
Take us through your involvement. Did you read it for 4 publication?
[Geeta Anand] 13:22:16
What was your reaction? Did you ask for any changes? Would you run it again?
[Jelani Cobb] 13:22:21
So you know, I’ll say I’m the dean of the journalism school.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:22:25
I’m not the editor of Columbia Journalism Review.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:22:28
So Kyle and I will have conversations about, you know, decisions or things that he’s thinking about running.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:22:36
We’re back. We had a conversation about 45 min ago about some things that we’re thinking would be good for the publication, but very much, you know.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:22:45
Cjr is under his purview. So I did see the girth piece.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:22:51
I don’t know. Maybe a month before it ran, and I shared criticisms with Kyle as I do about you know lots of stuff, and I’ll say, like, what about this?
[Jelani Cobb] 13:23:03
And is this, and so on. One issue that I will say is that I was concerned about the length above it, and some other points.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:23:12
But I wouldn’t go into the fine details of the you know, particular things that we discussed, because that’s, you know, really, I think important that we be able to talk confidentially about what we think about different pieces.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:23:24
But you know I shared that was critical of the P.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:23:26
S as I am of anything else, and you know things I thought were strong.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:23:31
I pointed out the things I thought was strong, and we went through kind of standard kind of dialogue that we’d have about this.
[Geeta Anand] 13:23:39
Another question to you, Julani. This is on the framing of the piece.
[Geeta Anand] 13:23:44
Can you respond to criticism about the framing about its focus almost exclusively on the Mueller report and the Steele dossier, and the failure to establish criminal conspiracy to argue that the Russia trump story was overblown and a media failure
[Geeta Anand] 13:24:03
and the criticism is that this was wrong. That it ignored mountains of other evidence.
[Geeta Anand] 13:24:10
And I’m just wondering if, in retrospect you think that the framing was wrong, that it was only Newsworthy.
[Geeta Anand] 13:24:17
If it could be proved that Donald Trump conspired with Putin that if it couldn’t be proven, this was a bunch of height.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:24:23
No, so I think that you know this is an important distinction, you know, which was that there was the bipartisan Senate report about Russian intervention, but the fact that you have a facts on your side doesn’t mean that you have all the facts on your
[Jelani Cobb] 13:24:47
side that’s possible for 2 things to be true, you know.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:24:50
I don’t think it’s a question that there was a Russian attempt to intervene in the election.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:24:54
Doesn’t mean that all the reporting that happened, and as a result of that was accurate.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:24:59
No, it doesn’t. And so it’s easy to see the things when you’re wrong.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:25:05
For all the wrong reasons, harder to see the things when you’re right for some of the wrong reasons, which is why I thought it was important to have that conversation that we wouldn’t look at the specificity.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:25:21
We would kind of just round up all of the shoddy reporting with the decent reporting, with the excellent reporting if the fundamental contention turned out to be true, and one of the things I thought was useful when Kyle and I were talking about this was that this was
[Jelani Cobb] 13:25:41
a piece that started to dissaggregate some of that, so we could have a more granular sense of what was right and what was wrong.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:25:49
And so, and without talking specifics. Of course I didn’t agree with everything in the piece.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:25:55
I still thought it was a valuable piece in in order to get at that disaggregation that we had done.
[Geeta Anand] 13:26:03
Thank you. And just continuing on that line of questioning. Kyle.
[Geeta Anand] 13:26:07
Many critics have argued again on the frameing that the argument that unless there was proof trump conspired with Russia that there’s no story here you know there’s all kinds of additional material that was proven, that the trump Administration knew Russia was trying to help him and welcome to
[Geeta Anand] 13:26:27
the support. Several several trump aids were convicted of lying about Russia.
[Geeta Anand] 13:26:32
Does none of this stuff matter? Why do you support the framing? Or did you support the framing of the story that if it wasn’t proven that Russia conspired, the trump conspired with Russia that there was no Russia trumps scandal?
[Kyle Pope] 13:26:46
I think all that matters and all of it was in the piece.
[Kyle Pope] 13:26:50
It was really a matter of emphasis. I mean our job as a as as a place of journalism, critique is defined.
[Kyle Pope] 13:27:01
The area. As to, I think it’s been a miss. Frankly, I think it’s been a misrepresentation of the piece that it it is is this sweeping exoneration of trump.
[Kyle Pope] 13:27:12
It is not that, and that’s not the way I read it.
[Kyle Pope] 13:27:18
That’s not what’s on the page. I think that that’s how it’s been characterized, which I think has been been helpful to the people who want to characterize it that way.
[Kyle Pope] 13:27:30
But that’s not the way I saw it, and I don’t think it’s what’s actually in in the words.
[Kyle Pope] 13:27:36
I mean, there’s there’s a lot of words and all you know, all of the areas of you know, that actually show connections between Trump and Russia are are mentioned and explored.
[Kyle Pope] 13:27:52
So I just I don’t buy.
[Kyle Pope] 13:27:55
I don’t think it’s fair to characterize the piece as a sort of sweeping exoneration, because it’s not what it was, and that’s not not the way I saw it.
[Kyle Pope] 13:28:05
I do think I do think the piece was was, was taking an approach, and it was saying, like, Here is it?
[Kyle Pope] 13:28:13
Here is another way to look at this and here’s another way to think about this.
[Kyle Pope] 13:28:19
And I mean it was, you know. I do think it was an intentional.
[Kyle Pope] 13:28:23
It was intentional on certainly in Jeff’s part, and then, when I edit it, it was an intention.
[Kyle Pope] 13:28:30
It was intentional on my part to not do what is a journalistic convention, which is to say, Here’s the here’s a way to look at this, and then do.
[Kyle Pope] 13:28:41
But of course there’s a lot of people who think otherwise and of course a lot of people would disagree with this and have this kind of massive.
[Kyle Pope] 13:28:47
To be sure, Section, I was aware that we didn’t do that.
[Kyle Pope] 13:28:53
We did it. We had touches of it, but you know, give you and I both have experienced the Wall Street Journal, and there was that, to be sure, graph was became sort of famous, and and it’s a way to basically say, here’s what we think.
[Kyle Pope] 13:29:10
And and then just sort of take just for a few graphs.
[Kyle Pope] 13:29:15
Take the complete opposite view for a little while, and then go back to the focus of the piece.
[Kyle Pope] 13:29:17
All of that, all of that others are countervailing.
[Kyle Pope] 13:29:22
Argument is in the piece. It’s not packaged the way that a lot of these kind of pieces are packaged, and I think that that frankly, I I remember watching sort of social media.
[Kyle Pope] 13:29:33
When this was published, and watching the responses start to come out after the published the piece, the first really scorching comments were within minutes of the publication of the story, and there is no way that anybody is gonna be able to understand what the story is about.
[Kyle Pope] 13:29:56
Or what it’s claiming, or is not claiming.
[Kyle Pope] 13:29:58
Within minutes of publishing what’s essentially 24,000 words.
[Kyle Pope] 13:30:04
So, you know, should we? I mean, if we had done this more conventional thing about like bundling all of the sort of like counter argumentuments and putting all at the top?
[Kyle Pope] 13:30:18
So people knew, you know, maybe the response would have been different.
[Kyle Pope] 13:30:24
But anyway, I hope that answers your question.
[Geeta Anand] 13:30:29
Thank you. Thank you, Kyle. Let’s talk about the Meta story that the public demonization of the media, the public discounts of the media.
[Geeta Anand] 13:30:39
Began with, and was caused by mistakes made on the trump.
[Geeta Anand] 13:30:44
Russia. Story, and I’ve seen folks argue persuasively.
[Geeta Anand] 13:30:49
I think David Corn was one of those that a Republican attacks on the media date way further back to the 19 seventies. And if that’s the case that calls into question the framing of this story on the most fundamental level, and I was just wondering Jelani if you could talk about that.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:31:11
No, I mean, I think that. Okay. Can you hear me?
[Geeta Anand] 13:31:11
[Jelani Cobb] 13:31:15
Okay, I think that it’s pretty clear that even you know, as a candidate when Trump met with the New York Times editorial board, this is long before the election, long before there had been any kind of hint of his Russia conversation he talked about changing the libel laws and you know he had been
[Jelani Cobb] 13:31:39
aing with media verbally on the stump.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:31:44
You know long before that. No, I think that it’s also true that Russia exactly all of those dynamics.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:31:56
And you know it catalyzed. You know the antagonism that was already present, and so I don’t think that you know, as a historian, of course I’m very kind of careful about where I say origins lie I don’t think there’s a kind of single point.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:32:12
Of origin in that story, and and David Coin is correct, and saying that you know the antagonism toward the media begins decades earlier, but I also think that the general hiide of Republican antagonism toward media was of a different order than what we saw umed during trump
[Jelani Cobb] 13:32:32
when Katie Tur was was pointed out, and people began jeering her, and people actually, you know, began sending when news organizations began sending security with their people, recovering trump rallies.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:32:48
That was a different level of concern. Also the fact that we can’t blame Trump Russia for the fact that you know Cnn.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:32:56
And all of the news outlets that received. You know, those bombs, those attempted to bomb, there’s attempts at bombing that wasn’t a product to believe that that was that was something else that had been catalyzed.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:33:11
And it was kind of brewing that was particular to Trumpism, so we can’t say it starts there, but I think that trump Russia becomes part of what is an active ingredient in what makes the environment so volatile.
[Geeta Anand] 13:33:25
Thanks. Jillani. Thank you. And Jeff. I promise to come back to you with a question, and I’m going to in a minute.
[Geeta Anand] 13:33:34
I just want to ask about the criticisms, and I’ll come to you, Jeff, on this.
[Geeta Anand] 13:33:40
But first Kyle, the criticisms of the way that Jeff dealt with trump and the interview just starting with the top of the story, we’re Jeff says, at its root was an undeclared war between an entrenched media and a new kind of disruptive presidency with its
[Jeff Gerth] 13:33:42
[Geeta Anand] 13:33:59
own hyperbolic version of the truth. And I’m just wondering, even in that description of.
[Geeta Anand] 13:34:09
Trumps version of the truth.
[Geeta Anand] 13:34:12
If you think that, just how, you why you use that language when in parentheses, you say the Washington Post has tracked thousands of tribes, false or misleading statements.
[Geeta Anand] 13:34:26
Yeah. Why that? Why those? Why is that an accurate way to describe the Trump Presidencies and Trumps?
[Kyle Pope] 13:34:39
You mean hyperbolic?
[Geeta Anand] 13:34:39
[Kyle Pope] 13:34:42
I mean, as you point out, we immediately follow that by saying that he is, he’s been catalogued as a repeat wire.
[Kyle Pope] 13:34:51
By the Washington Post, I mean, I guess.
[Kyle Pope] 13:34:56
Are you wondering why why we didn’t come down harder on that?
[Geeta Anand] 13:34:59
Yeah, why didn’t you say, with it’s why didn’t you say dealing with a disruptive presidency?
[Geeta Anand] 13:35:06
And President who made, who lied thousands of times.
[Kyle Pope] 13:35:14
Yeah, I mean, I guess I sort of I guess I sort of think that it’s it’s in that reference to the post.
[Kyle Pope] 13:35:23
But maybe we could have been stronger about that. But I I don’t think we I don’t think we.
[Kyle Pope] 13:35:31
We give trump a pass in the story and I think it’s an interesting.
[Kyle Pope] 13:35:36
There is an interesting what I find intriguing sort of like debate around how we in in the quotes that we did use from Trump, and in Jeff’s interactions with him, sort of how we let him talk, and the things we let him say but I don’t
[Kyle Pope] 13:35:57
know. I mean, I think that that reference to him is is fair.
[Geeta Anand] 13:36:04
Okay. Let me just come back and I’m gonna ask Jeff this question, and it’s on the same issue of Jeff.
[Geeta Anand] 13:36:10
How you handle trump! And his quotes, I mean how the article handles trump, and his quotes.
[Geeta Anand] 13:36:18
So this is again. This is, I’m grabbing criticism that’s been in the media.
[Geeta Anand] 13:36:23
So you’re very familiar with these criticisms, but I wanna this is an opportunity to engage with you on that.
[Geeta Anand] 13:36:31
So several times in the story, you allow Trump to offer explanations that you don’t challenge in the story.
[Geeta Anand] 13:36:40
And here’s one. This is about trump talking about Hillary’s emails.
[Geeta Anand] 13:36:52
So in this the story, says Trump, unaware of any plan to tie him to the Kremlin, pump’s life into the spontaneous narrative.
[Geeta Anand] 13:37:00
Asked about the Dnc. Hacks by reporters at his trump.
[Geeta Anand] 13:37:05
National Doral, Miami golf resort on July twenty-seventh he said, Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing the quick was picked up everywhere.
[Geeta Anand] 13:37:18
And it goes on and on, and then you say I asked Trump what he meant.
[Geeta Anand] 13:37:22
If you look at the whole tape, he said in an interview, it’s obvious that it was being said sarcastically, a point he made at the time, and my question to you, Jeff, is you didn’t follow up by mentioning and again, this is not some novel criticism that i’m
[Geeta Anand] 13:37:37
offering here, I’m grabbing it from other people’s criticisms, but you didn’t follow up by mentioning that Russian hackers made an attempt to penetrate Hillary Clinton’s computers hours after trump made his Playful Clip or that Trump’s
[Geeta Anand] 13:37:53
behavior pattern has been to make questionable public statements and then say later that he was kidding.
[Geeta Anand] 13:38:00
And I’m asking why you handled Trump in this way, and if you think it was fair.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:38:07
Well, first of all, I wanna go back to one of your questions.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:38:10
You asked of Jelani and Kyle, cause I think the questions you are getting, miss, characterize what’s in the piece?
[Geeta Anand] 13:38:14
If you’re gonna quote this, quote him talking about, hey, Russia? If you’re listening, you’re gonna?
[Jeff Gerth] 13:38:21
So at the top of the piece. It does say that the media was all you know.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:38:29
Okay, until trump came along, and then everything went sour. What it does say at the top of the piece and document later on in the piece is that the phrases fake news and the media’s the enemy of the American people.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:38:44
We’re relatively unbelievable in this before Trump became President, and then they became supercharged by him, and are now widely believed by a lot of people.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:38:58
A troubling thing for me as a member of the media.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:39:04
So I wanted to straighten that out. As for the question you just asked about is Doral remarks, you know I I’ll say a couple of things one trump says a lot of things, and I’m reminded of what John Mitchell said when he was Attorney
[Jeff Gerth] 13:39:26
General under Richard Nixon, which is, watch what we do, not what we say.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:39:34
And so I went into this a little bit in the piece.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:39:36
I probably could have gone into it a lot more Trump said a lot of things about Russia, nice things about Putin.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:39:43
But if you actually looked at his policies, both what he wanted to do as a candidate on what he did do as President, whether it’s energy policies or nuclear weapons, policies, or the Nord Stream sanctions his policies.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:40:01
We’re much tougher against Russia the knows of Joe Biden or Barack Obama.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:40:09
And so again. Yes, he says a lot of crazy things. He says a lot of adulatory things about Putin, but his actual policies we’re quite tough compared, as I say to his predecessor and his successor, and so I did focus on the 2 most sort of inflammatory.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:40:31
Remarks he made. One was the one you mentioned, that throughout the other was some remarks he made at Helsinki at a summit in 2,018, and the piece, you know, speaks for itself.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:40:45
Not a ghost. Specifically so, the question about?
[Jelani Cobb] 13:40:48
Before we jump into the other thing I do.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:40:51
Wanna make 1 point that the presidential words are action, that you know this for the Presidency policy, you know it exists on the level of what?
[Jelani Cobb] 13:41:01
It said, but also on the level of what gets passed by Congress.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:41:06
I don’t think we could make a hard distinction between those 2 things, that if you’re giving converbal comfort to autocrat, then that does actually account for what you’re doing with the Presidency, I don’t want to be kind of argument to do this but
[Jeff Gerth] 13:41:19
[Jelani Cobb] 13:41:21
I think that that distinction doesn’t necessarily hold up.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:41:24
Well, I’m not. I’m not diminishing what he says, but the power! Look if Donald Trump was some, you know, Putin, you know, crony or ally, his energy policies do more to damage Russia.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:41:40
Then anything you could imagine. So I’m not saying his words don’t matter.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:41:45
I’m just saying that as policies are much more important than his words, so.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:41:56
Yeah, I’m gonna get to that. I’m gonna answer that right now.
[Geeta Anand] 13:41:58
Yeah, but but please get to it, though, because we have other questions, though.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:42:02
Well, I understand. But if the questions don’t you know aren’t accurate, I’m gonna you know.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:42:10
Speak to them, because I’m not gonna let them pass.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:42:13
So I was aware of the the fact that the Russians did what they did.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:42:19
Shortly after he made those remarks into route.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:42:23
I didn’t put it in the piece. I didn’t put in a lot of other things in the piece that could have gone the other way as well.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:42:28
I simply went and looked at the tape and any of the people watching this or anybody, for that matter, can go look at the derail, tape yourself, and draw your own conclusion.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:42:42
I described how I saw, and that’s how how I wrote it in the piece, and I was aware of the the matter that was in a question.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:42:54
I left it out, because there’s no proof that there’s some connection between trump telling them to do it, and they did it so whether it’s a coincidence or a benign event, or something to spiritual, I can’t answer, and the piece was long enough as it was so I I left that out as
[Jeff Gerth] 13:43:14
I left out things that did go any other way as well.
[Geeta Anand] 13:43:19
Thank you, Jeff. Just a question. What was the topic question you asked Trump, in your interviews?
[Jeff Gerth] 13:43:26
I repeatedly tried to get him to admit to having made mistakes.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:43:35
And wasn’t terribly successful, because he, you know he is who he is, and he answers what he answers, I’m not questioning him under oath.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:43:48
I don’t have any ability to push them other than keep asking the questions.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:43:55
And I did, and.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:43:58
Some of that’s in in the piece, you know where he what he describes is his mistakes or regrets, or whatever, and you can judge for yourself whether they’re really mistakes or not.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:44:10
I’m not gonna characterize. You know what he said, and whether those are mistakes or not.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:44:16
That’s for the reader. Look, I think, in terms of the framing of the story and all the questions that you were asking earlier.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:44:24
I just tried to tell a story chronologically and factually, of how it unfolded I didn’t go in with.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:44:31
Here’s how it’s gonna wind up or hear’s what’s you know?
[Jeff Gerth] 13:44:34
Here’s the lesson we draw from it.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:44:37
It was a very factual chronological story, and that’s how I set out to do it.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:44:45
And obviously people can differ with things or we’re left in, or things that were left out.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:44:50
But the framing of it was pretty chronological, other than sort of the top of the piece that tried to kind of makes them, you know, highlights and some summary of some of the things.
[Geeta Anand] 13:45:03
Thank you, Jeff. Oh, I wanna ask you all about a criticism from Ben’s mess.
[Geeta Anand] 13:45:13
He says, you know girth slips into some of the same myopia and confirmation bias that he criticizes and does it, and delivers a simple and satisfying narrative of a President rounded by in particular the New York Times on the story itself to this is Ben’s opinion on the
[Geeta Anand] 13:45:33
story itself to conflicting claims are both obviously true parts of the liberal media, and mainly Democrats, developed wildly false theories about trump and a Russian intelligence operation reported by the times, and others helped trump Girth treats the Dnc.
[Geeta Anand] 13:45:53
Hack, a hugely successful intelligence school as another database, and the narrative about the media.
[Geeta Anand] 13:46:00
He omits the trump organization’s attempt to build a Moscow high rise.
[Geeta Anand] 13:46:05
We’re just wondering if you can respond to Ben Smith’s criticism.
[Geeta Anand] 13:46:11
And Jillani, you first, and then Kyle.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:46:17
I’m gonna jump in and say, the the question is wrong, because the piece doesn’t discuss Trump’s efforts to build something in Moscow.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:46:18
[Jeff Gerth] 13:46:26
So again. I’m sorry to interrupt Jamali, but I’m more familiar with the piece than he is understandably, and so the benefit.
[Geeta Anand] 13:46:36
Oh, but yes, I’m asking them to respond, because I was a reporter like you, and I relied on my editors for to make sure that I had balance and perspective in my piece.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:46:38
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Can. Can you just repeat that? The last part of the question?
[Geeta Anand] 13:46:53
So I am turning some of the first questions about framing and balance and perspective to the editors first. But I’m definitely coming back to let you weigh in and correct the question if you would like to, Johnanni, do you wanna guess that first.
[Geeta Anand] 13:47:14
Sure. So this is Ben Smith and Ben Smith, arguing that in his view to conflicting claims are true.
[Geeta Anand] 13:47:24
At the same time, and in that is, that parts of the liberal media developed wildly false theories about trump, and also that a Russian intelligence operation reported by the times and others helped trump, and Ben’s criticism is that Girth treats the Dnc.
[Geeta Anand] 13:47:46
Hack, a hugely successful intelligence school. As another data point in the narrative about the media omits the trump organization’s attempt to build a Moscow high rise.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:48:00
Yeah, it. It wasn’t a story. Yeah.
[Geeta Anand] 13:48:00
Jeff says it was in the story, but basically that the yeah, but basically that the piece slips into the same myopia and confirmation bias, that girth is criticizing that it doesn’t hold 2 2 things that ben argues with true together at the same
[Jelani Cobb] 13:48:18
[Geeta Anand] 13:48:19
time it a simple, satisfying narrative, just one simple, satisfying narrative.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:48:25
So I think that you know one. You know. The Dnc hat was obviously, you know, extremely important, and even the willingness of the Trump campaign to hear intelligence as it relates to Hillary Clinton whether or not they actually got any intelligence from an international or foreign source the willingness to hear
[Jelani Cobb] 13:48:51
it is hugely important and significant at the same time we’re back to the original position.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:49:00
Not all of the the reporting on trump Russia was accurate, and so it’s easy to say with something like Iraq.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:49:07
We can point to all of the bad reporting, because the fundamental underlying premise was faulty.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:49:15
But if the underlying premise winds up, being valid, we then just kind of sweep away all the things that we got wrong, which is what I thought was important about that conversation.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:49:28
So going back to that same thing there are probably 5 or 6 other things that we can talk about that were significant in that regard.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:49:37
But to what extent did we really see a sustained engagement with what went wrong with the Steele? Do?
[Jelani Cobb] 13:49:45
Ca, or what people had around trump Russia, that turned out to not be airtight, or stories that people ran with quite frankly before they were baked.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:49:55
You know things that needed to be in the oven longer than they were, and we didn’t.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:50:00
We didn’t talk about that, because, quite frankly, we generally think it’s like the coaches saying that because you won, you didn’t get anything wrong during the game, and that was, I think, what was the valuable perspective on that.
[Geeta Anand] 13:50:15
Thanks. Thanks, Julan Kyle. Do you wanna add anything to that?
[Geeta Anand] 13:50:19
[Kyle Pope] 13:50:20
No, I mean, I think Johnny covered it. Well, I mean and at the risk of repeating myself, like I think I think I found the the piece much more nuanced than people describe it as and as somebody who lived in a lot of
[Kyle Pope] 13:50:40
paragraphs for a long time in the piece.
[Kyle Pope] 13:50:43
There, there’s a lot I don’t think I mean, if the criticism is that it was sort of monolithic, and taking a single point of view I don’t think it did again that’s how it’s perceived.
[Kyle Pope] 13:50:56
But I actually found it to be I mean again.
[Kyle Pope] 13:51:00
He’s he’s taking a strong point of view here, which I found quite valuable, and you know there there were times, I mean, since this is published, you know.
[Kyle Pope] 13:51:15
So people have asked me like, Well, did you agree with every word of the story?
[Kyle Pope] 13:51:20
I’m like. Well, of course not. I mean, why would I didn’t write it, but I think it was.
[Kyle Pope] 13:51:27
I think it was fair. I think it was compelling.
[Kyle Pope] 13:51:30
I I’m proud to have run it, and and I simply don’t see it as a single point of view that excludes all the other facts.
[Geeta Anand] 13:51:43
Thank you. Kyle. Jeff. I wanna make space for you.
[Geeta Anand] 13:51:48
This is just responding to Ben Smith’s criticism.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:51:54
Well, first of all, I won’t criticize Ben Smith for publishing the dossier and creating the firestorm that I described.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:52:04
That ensued in the weeks afterwards, but I will say that to conflate the Dnc.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:52:12
Hack as some momentous event.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:52:17
It’s only impact. Again. First of all, the case has never been adjudicated.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:52:23
So that we haven’t seen the evidence. But let’s assume the allegations.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:52:29
Correct, the the Dnc hack took place and came out before the Dnc.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:52:36
Convention in July of 2,016, and.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:52:42
First of all, the first thing that came out was negative research on Donald Trump.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:52:48
Second of all, the most important consequence of that hack was the enmity towards Hillary Clinton.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:52:58
From Bernie Sanders. Supporters, who were pissed off, that the the data that came out showed that the Dnc.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:53:06
Was, giving preferential treatment to Hillary, so it didn’t have any information about Trump other than negative information having to do with opposition research that the Dnc.
[Geeta Anand] 13:53:20
Thank you both. This is a question now for Julan, and then Kyle.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:53:22
Had done, and you know I forget now the exact phrasing of Ben Smith’s question, but I just you know I told the story factually and chronologically, and the Dnc.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:53:38
Hack is in there, and not everything is in there, but an awful lot is, and people can, you know, agree or disagree with some of the choices of what was put in or not?
[Jeff Gerth] 13:53:49
Put in, but again, as far as I know, there’s no one who’s named in the story.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:53:55
Or any news organizations name this story. That’s complained to the Cjr.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:54:02
Or to me, saying, we want a correction. We want this fixed or whatever, and so obviously, they’re going to be disagreements about how the story was written.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:54:14
But it is what it is. And so that’s real.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:54:17
Well, I mean I I think that we’ll have to go on a conspiratorial rabbit hole to say that the Dnc hat was was consequential, though I mean I actually covered that convention, and it’s split the convention that the Bernie people left and divided
[Jelani Cobb] 13:54:33
conventions tend not to nominate successful candidates, I mean, there would certainly and they certainly had an impact.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:54:40
You and I disagree about that which is fine, but I just think that it.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:54:42
Well, I agree it had an impact, but it didn’t.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:54:47
You know, there were more conceptual things that came out in the course of revelations, etc.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:54:54
But at any minute, you know, it’s in the story the piece wrote about it, and and reflected on it, and people can differ about how consequential it wasn’t.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:55:03
I really don’t know, but I’ll take your, you know. Take on it, and that’s fine.
[Geeta Anand] 13:55:15
This is from from one of the questions submitted in advance, and this is about the story in the nation that Cgr.
[Geeta Anand] 13:55:26
Had commissions. So the question is that at the end of 2018 c.
[Geeta Anand] 13:55:30
Jr commissioned a story on another aspect of the media coverage of Trump and Russia.
[Geeta Anand] 13:55:34
C. Jr. Assigned a journalist to explore how the nation had become so invested in defending Russia and Putin.
[Geeta Anand] 13:55:42
That story was never published. For reasons that this questioner, says Ray, go to questions about Cjr’s own conflicts and bias.
[Geeta Anand] 13:55:54
Well, yeah. Can you hear? Yes, please.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:55:54
So can I say something to this? You know.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:56:01
I I wanna like choose my words carefully.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:56:07
Like no, that is not true, like we don’t like first off.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:56:16
Cdr. Publishes about media, Columbia journalism.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:56:21
School had substantial relationships with lots of media entities.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:56:24
It would literally be impossible to publish Cjr. If we were saying that we were beholden to all of the entities that we have any connection to.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:56:34
But we had no transactional relationship with the nation. In no way that we benefit monetarily from anything in the nation.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:56:43
Moreover, even if we did benefit, which we did not that wouldn’t have anything to do with editorial policy at Cjr.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:56:51
I wouldn’t, you know, for reasons of discretion, list all the entities that we connect with that we do executive education, for that we have intern relationships with or that we have scholarship relationships with, like as any other significant institution does but it’s offensive in the extreme
[Jelani Cobb] 13:57:11
to say that because this article didn’t run it somehow cast an aspersion on the integrity of the operation that we have in.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:57:18
It’s not something that I would participate in. It’s not something that Kyle would participate in.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:57:22
That’s certainly not something that my predecessor, Steve Cole, would have predicted in or tolerated.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:57:29
So and in Kyle can talk about to the extent that he wants to.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:57:33
Why that piece didn’t run, but it just flat out will not allow anyone to cast aspersions on the integrity of Columbia Journalism Review, or Columbia Journalism.
[Jelani Cobb] 13:57:40
[Geeta Anand] 13:57:41
Thank you. Jellany Kyle, do you want to jump in on?
[Geeta Anand] 13:57:44
Why the piece didn’t run, because that’s been the subject of thoughts of speculation.
[Kyle Pope] 13:57:50
The piece didn’t run, because the writer was months and months late, and giving us a rerun.
[Kyle Pope] 13:57:56
That’s why the piece didn’t rock, and in that delay several things happen to change the newsworthiness of the piece, including a change into the guard at the nation and the the near death.
[Kyle Pope] 13:58:17
And then death of of one of the subjects of the piece, and my view was that given that the piece the writer didn’t turn in the piece.
[Kyle Pope] 13:58:25
And then these things had happened. The only way the piece would work is that there was a substantial revision of the piece which we offered the writer the right to do, and we said, we can look at a revision of the piece.
[Kyle Pope] 13:58:39
Or we could, you know, kill the piece and move forward.
[Kyle Pope] 13:58:43
We never got a response to that request ever so that’s what happened with that.
[Kyle Pope] 13:58:51
And to Julanne’s point about this, about conflicts.
[Kyle Pope] 13:58:57
I mean it. You know my job every day is to deal with this very topic.
[Kyle Pope] 13:59:07
I mean, we write. It turns out that the media world is fairly small.
[Kyle Pope] 13:59:16
So every piece we do has some conflicts baked in I mean, take a look at the disclosures at the end of Jeff’s piece.
[Jeff Gerth] 13:59:23
[Kyle Pope] 13:59:25
There’s an entire section at the end of that piece listing all the ways that we have conflicts around this story, including Jeff’s work at the New York Times, including my own connections to the New York Times.
[Kyle Pope] 13:59:43
It’s a but we deal with this every day, and we book, and we’ve become quite adapt that we know we know we recognize it.
[Kyle Pope] 13:59:56
We’re transparent about it, and we deal with it.
[Kyle Pope] 13:59:59
So, yeah, I mean, I think this was, this was the case where a writer didn’t deliver what we asked.
[Kyle Pope] 14:00:10
In a way we asked, and and then, and then tried to come back.
[Geeta Anand] 14:00:18
I thank you, Kyle. I wanna give the 3 of you a chance to respond to any questions I haven’t asked you that you think are really important.
[Geeta Anand] 14:00:35
There’s been the criticism, and you know various media from various media organizations about the piece, and I’m not sure I’ve covered all of the ground.
[Geeta Anand] 14:00:45
If covered. All of the grounds that you know I identified.
[Geeta Anand] 14:00:50
But if there is some really critical that you think our audience would appreciate hearing you explain, just I wanna make space for that.
[Jelani Cobb] 14:01:03
I think that I’ll start. I think that one of the things we talked about was a forum, for like a digital print forum for people to weigh in, because this is something that has struck a nerve and had a kind of you know, large respons to it and so
[Jelani Cobb] 14:01:23
that’s something that we’ll see in Cjr.
[Jelani Cobb] 14:01:24
Come up for people to be able to voice their opinion about this, but I think that for me, yeah.
[Jelani Cobb] 14:01:33
When I came in I’ll just kinda give you a window into when I came in.
[Jelani Cobb] 14:01:39
As Dean. I talked in, you know. Kyle and I went to lunch and talked about.
[Jelani Cobb] 14:01:44
You know how we saw Cjr moving forward, and I said that we need to be square in the middle of the vital debates that this particular set of circumstances, politically, socially, economically, has created for media.
[Jelani Cobb] 14:02:02
And you know, that’s where I really want to see us kind of weighing in.
[Jelani Cobb] 14:02:05
And so this conversation was just one. We had a forum about the battles over whether or not objectivity remains a viable aspiration or concept for journalism.
[Jelani Cobb] 14:02:18
We have a democracy and Journalism Conference that will be on April 20, fifth, April 20, sixth it’s part of a bigger suite of attempts to make sure that we are, you know, right in the middle of the conversation as we’ve always been and so that’s you know
[Jelani Cobb] 14:02:37
really what my thinking is about it. And wanting to make sure that, you know we have an open line of communication if you agree with something we want to hear from you, if you don’t agree with something, I don’t think we have any suspicion that we won’t hear from
[Jelani Cobb] 14:02:51
you, but I think it’s good to be able to be in dialogue with your critics.
[Geeta Anand] 14:03:00
Thanks. Jillani Kyle or Jeff. Do you have?
[Geeta Anand] 14:03:04
Is there any particular criticism that you want to respond to, or I wanna make space for anything?
[Geeta Anand] 14:03:10
I haven’t asked you.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:03:14
Well, I go ahead.
[Kyle Pope] 14:03:15
Good. Yeah. You go ahead. I actually faded out for a second.
[Kyle Pope] 14:03:19
[Jeff Gerth] 14:03:21
Well, I wanted to address a question that I’ve been asked quite a bit that didn’t come up here, which is why I focused so much on the New York Times.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:03:34
And so my answer to that question is threefold.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:03:39
One. It’s the most influential. No widely read news outlet.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:03:46
Certainly in America, perhaps in the World number 2. It’s the only news organization whose coverage of the Trump Russia matter was repeatedly criticized by the FBI in internal documents that later became public.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:04:11
And obviously, if other news organizations have been criticized by the FBI in documents, I would have reported on that as well.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:04:20
But the New York Times stood out. That regard. So that’s a second reason.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:04:26
And the third reason is, that the times provided a valuable window into their editorial and repertory decision making by allowing a filmmaker into the newsroom for a year and a half, and then you know the fruits of it became a 4 part series that aired in 2
[Jeff Gerth] 14:04:50
1,018, and so that offered invaluable.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:04:57
Raw material for any journalist. Looking at at this story, and a lot of the documentarians work feature.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:05:09
The stories that I was interested in, as well as the stories that the FBI was internally being quite critical of, as well.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:05:19
So those those are the the main reasons why there’s so much in the piece about the New York Times.
[Geeta Anand] 14:05:28
Thank you. Thank you, Jeff Kyle. Anything you want to respond to, not to put you on the spot, but to put you on the spot.
[Kyle Pope] 14:05:37
No, I mean, I think you covered it really well, I mean I gotta say, like, you know, I’ve been doing this for a walk for a long time.
[Kyle Pope] 14:05:46
And I was. I was slightly surprised by the the yeah of the the push back was, and maybe that’s naive on my part.
[Kyle Pope] 14:06:07
But it was. I just found it interesting.
[Kyle Pope] 14:06:11
I kind of interesting. I was almost kind of a worse test of how people view trump and trump, and Russia.
[Kyle Pope] 14:06:21
They were sort of. You know that the peace, or became whatever people wanted it to become.
[Kyle Pope] 14:06:24
I mean, it was we’ve talked about it being miscaracterized.
[Kyle Pope] 14:06:28
By critics of the piece. It was also wildly mischaracterized by people who liked the piece.
[Kyle Pope] 14:06:32
They saw in it things that simply were not there. And and that happens all the time in journalism.
[Kyle Pope] 14:06:42
But it happened just the volume in the pitch of it were somewhat surprising to me.
[Kyle Pope] 14:06:51
And again like, did that leave me to believe that we should have found a way editorially to head that off.
[Kyle Pope] 14:06:59
I don’t think so. I mean, I think I think that, Johnny said at the very beginning.
[Kyle Pope] 14:07:09
I mean, I think, that this debate has been valuable it’s been valuable to me and I think it’s been.
[Kyle Pope] 14:07:15
You know, it’s been valuable for the whole community to sort of hash this stuff out.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:07:23
Geek can. Can I add one other thing?
[Geeta Anand] 14:07:25
Yes, jump in!
[Jeff Gerth] 14:07:27
Yeah, thank you. A lot of the questions, including many, did you ask today?
[Jeff Gerth] 14:07:35
I think. We’re, you know. Why didn’t you put in this about something related to Trump or Russia?
[Jeff Gerth] 14:07:43
Why did you leave this out? And so I think the questions.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:07:48
And maybe you know this was my fault, and not framing the piece better.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:07:52
But it wasn’t meant to be a piece about trump, and Russia it was meant to be a piece about the media coverage of Trump and Russia, and so, therefore I I wasn’t intending to go back and try and relitigate the whole investigation and lay it all out for
[Jeff Gerth] 14:08:09
people. I tried to pick what I thought were the most salient moments, but again the focus of the piece was on the journalism, and the role of the journalism and the the good, the bad, and the ugly.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:08:24
And obviously the Columbia Journalism review it’s not Foreign Affairs.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:08:30
It’s it’s a review of journalism.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:08:33
And so therefore I think a lot of the criticism or questions sort of wanted the piece to be something.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:08:43
It wasn’t meant to be, and if I didn’t make that clear enough, then that’s my fault.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:08:49
But I think it. I thought it was obvious that by publishing this and writing it for the Journalism Review, it was the focus again, was on the media.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:08:57
So that’s just the point I wanted to make.
[Jelani Cobb] 14:09:02
So Jeff, can. Can that be a good professor and point to a question that one of my former students has in the chat which is, he’s responding to it.
[Jelani Cobb] 14:09:12
That you’ve made about about something comparatively hard on Russia.
[Jelani Cobb] 14:09:19
And he wants us to know how you square that with trump, a weakening, the Magnitsky sanctions, and also of a question related about Trump’s efforts to weaken.
[Jelani Cobb] 14:09:31
NATO. Is that contrast with your argument?
[Jeff Gerth] 14:09:35
Look! Those are all you know. Counterpoints to the points I was making.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:09:41
But again I wasn’t trying to. Yeah, I left out of the piece the points I made it in this town hall because it wasn’t meant to be a piece of was Trump’s policies about Russia, you know, too.
[Jelani Cobb] 14:09:56
Sure, I think that was part of the I think they’re responding to the conversation that we have. That’s where the question is from. Yeah.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:09:58
So they’re too hard and.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:10:01
Right, yeah, so right, yeah, look, I’m not an expert on Russia policy.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:10:07
But I the 2 things that I pointed out I thought were the 2 most important points which is economically for Russia.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:10:16
There’s nothing more important than the price of oil, without a doubt, and by having the energy policy that he promoted the trump administration.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:10:29
It’s policies were designed to increase production and therefore lower the cost of oil in the world.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:10:36
Markets, and that that hurts Putin. Without a doubt.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:10:40
So economically speaking, that was the most important policy and and militarily or diplomatically, the whole nuclear.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:10:49
You know, there was a nuclear posture review done by the trop administration that was very muscular.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:10:54
Some of it got implemented. Dividing people came in. They wanted Biden campaigned on a less muscular policy.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:11:04
Obviously the war in Ukraine has recalculated things, but again, if you look from 30,000 feet, the 2 most important things, economic and military, the trump administration policies, we’re much, much more muscular than as I said, the predecessor, or the successor, so
[Jeff Gerth] 14:11:24
I’m mean. I don’t disagree with the 2 points that you raise, but I again I’m trying to hit the highest, you know, impact policies.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:11:33
And as I said, they weren’t in the piece because it wasn’t a piece about foreign policy.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:11:39
You know there was stuff in the piece about the the plank in the Republican platform from June of 2,016, which was a source of a lot of media.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:11:51
Speculation, and and as the piece points out, you know, possible exaggeration, and so we’re in, there was a immediate play in it.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:12:02
That’s where I delve into it, and so that is flushed out in the pieces.
[Geeta Anand] 14:12:07
I hear you that this is media criticism and the validity of media criticism, because we learn from the criticism so I want to ask each of you what you’ve learned from the criticism of these piece these pieces. And one thing.
[Geeta Anand] 14:12:23
You would do differently. Jeff. First.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:12:31
Well what I’ve learned is unfortunately sort of what I expected to be true.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:12:37
Turned out to be true, which is, that the piece pretty much.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:12:43
Was a rushes. Test, as Kyle said, and therefore the criticisms I don’t feel like the people who commented on the PC.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:12:56
They’re positively or negatively, I’m not sure they really engaged in the the substance of the piece, and instead brought their preconceived conceptions to it.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:13:08
So, you know, if I wanted to do something differently, I might have tried to make more clear, maybe at the top what the piece was meant to do, what it was not meant to do, and try and sort of deal with all the expected fallout, but I’m not really very good at doing that I’m not comfortable as
[Jeff Gerth] 14:13:29
a reporter trying to to get into the psychology of things so.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:13:39
But maybe I’ve learned a lesson and we’ll try and do that the next time.
[Jeff Gerth] 14:13:42
And what was the other question you asked?
[Geeta Anand] 14:13:44
Oh, no! That’s it. You answered exactly it, Kyle.
[Geeta Anand] 14:13:48
You first, and then jellany. So Jeff is saying he might have framed the top differently. Would you?
[Geeta Anand] 14:13:55
I mean we learn from our mistakes, and we learn from criticisms.
[Geeta Anand] 14:13:59
And that’s why media criticism is valid.
[Geeta Anand] 14:14:02
What have you learned from this? And what would you do differently next time?
[Kyle Pope] 14:14:05
Yeah, I mean, the irony can be lost that this is such a meta moment. Right?
[Kyle Pope] 14:14:10
The media critic is answering media criticism, but it’s actually really helpful.
[Kyle Pope] 14:14:18
I think one of the things that we’ve never.
[Kyle Pope] 14:14:21
We haven’t talked about, and I think was a mistake in the piece and Jeff and I wrestled about this.
[Kyle Pope] 14:14:25
There is a coda at the very end of the piece that includes some insights Jeff had about the sort of macro failings of journalism having to do with the use of anonymous sources.
[Kyle Pope] 14:14:44
Primarily, and I think it was. And again, like he and I talked about this and tried to figure out what to do with it, and it was kind of his take on like what were the main failures of media that he saw in this whole thing and not having to do with
[Kyle Pope] 14:15:00
the details of Trump and Russia, but just in general about how these news outlets went about their business, and I think I wish that we had found a way to frame that at the top, because I think it could one I thought it was super interesting, and almost nobody has talked has looked at
[Kyle Pope] 14:15:20
that section which I would encourage people to do. The.
[Kyle Pope] 14:15:27
And so I think if we had found a way to put that stuff up higher, it would have made more clear that this wasn’t a debate about Trump Russia policy.
[Kyle Pope] 14:15:38
It was really a discussion of how the biggest news outlets in the world went about reporting the biggest story in the world, and I think so that’s to your question. I would have.
[Kyle Pope] 14:15:51
That’s, I think, would have, I think it would have helped readers understand what this was, and I actually just think it was important.
[Kyle Pope] 14:16:00
It was important insight that it’s gotten lost in all this discussion.
[Jelani Cobb] 14:16:05
I think that one. There’s one question in the chat that I want to sponsored the person who wanted to know why this wasn’t rescheduled for obvious news reasons, and their reason for that was a we had rescheduled once before and we didn’t we thought
[Jelani Cobb] 14:16:20
that if we rescheduled the second time, obviously we didn’t know that when we set this date that trump was going to be indicted and arranged at the same time that we were doing this, so.
[Jelani Cobb] 14:16:29
But that’s also this to kind of also Meta to Kyle’s point.
[Jelani Cobb] 14:16:34
You know that news organizations operate while multiple things are happening.
[Jelani Cobb] 14:16:38
So there’s that in terms of the piece.
[Jelani Cobb] 14:16:46
Forum to have like done that piece, you know, in at the length that it ran, but along with you know, maybe 3 or 4 other people who were responding to it from a variety of perspectives which I think could have made for really fruitful exchange with folk yeah, but you know.
[Jelani Cobb] 14:17:05
we’re we’re we kind of move on from there and and like, I said, you know, I think that when we think about what Cdr should be doing is providing a forum for these.
[Jelani Cobb] 14:17:23
With it, so.
[Geeta Anand] 14:17:26
So. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Jeff.
[Geeta Anand] 14:17:33
Thank you, Kyle, for hosting this forum for inviting me to moderate, and for making the space available to answer questions.
[Geeta Anand] 14:17:43
I really appreciate it, and I can say I’ve learned a lot just hearing you respond to the questions.
[Geeta Anand] 14:17:49
So yeah, on behalf of all of us.
[Kyle Pope] 14:17:51
Thank you. David.
[Jelani Cobb] 14:17:51
[Jeff Gerth] 14:17:53
Thank you. Gee
[Jelani Cobb] 14:17:54