On January 10, 2017, Buzzfeed decided to publish a 35-page dossier that reveals Trump’s sexual and financial dealings with Russia, for it was “cultivating, supporting and assisting [him] for at least 5 years,” as the report claims. The documents written by a British spy and former intelligence operative went viral and caused total chaos, just 10 days before Trump’s inauguration.
The president-elect clearly stated that the report is “fake news”, whereas the Russian president went further to call creators of the dossier “worse than prostitutes.” Few hours after the publication, BuzzFeed’s Editor Ben Smith explained that “publishing this dossier reflects how we see the job of reporters in 2017.”
Although Buzzfeed made it clear in the initial report that the information is unverified, it was not spared from criticism. Producer and Host of “The Young Turks” Ana Kasparian said “it was beyond irresponsible and unethical for them to publish that.” Kelly McBride, an ethicist at Poynter Institute for media studies simply said “the act of publishing the dossier in its entirety isn’t journalism.” And Radio Host Laura Ingraham called the publication a “shocking breakdown of journalistic ethics.”
The decision to release the 35-page dossier raised ethics questions again. Fake news is a very hot topic nowadays, and its spread on social media should be dealt with according to media literacy. If it really cared about journalistic ethics, “the failing pile of Garbage” as described by Trump and also known as Buzzfeed wouldn’t have published unverified documents of leaked information just because “citizens should have evidence to consider for themselves,” as the Investigative Site “Propublica” suggests.
The publication of such an extraordinary yet unverified global story exceeds the pursuit of scoops and ratings; it rather serves political agendas directed against the Republican president-elect Donald Trump. All of which calls experts in the field to reconsider their values in approaching news production and distribution for journalistic practices should always be limited to truth-seeking in isolation of political favoritism.