Does A New Trump Tome Violate Journalistic Ethics?

These questions are made even more difficult by today’s television news environment. Journalists, especially those driven by the scoop, are getting lucrative book deals to essentially write longer versions of what they already do: tying together a series of stories, some big, some small, into a story consistent that says something bigger about the historical moment. Because these books are so dependent on the news cycle — and because so few of them have much lasting power (when was the last time you thought of a Trump-era bestseller like fire and furymuch less seen someone read one?)-FFor these books to succeed, they almost always need new, non-trivial, and proprietary information that can attract attention and sales. Publishers then hang these trinkets for the books and their authors to be featured on cable news, which reliably boosts book sales.

Few recent political bestsellers have risen to prominence without a healthy dose of scooplets, and publishers have in turn recruited dozens of journalists to write the same kind of books about the very recent present. This, in turn, incentivizes journalists to hold back information that might otherwise have appeared earlier in a newspaper or online. At the same time, many of these same journalists are also paid by the cable news networks as talking heads, which means they could be placed in a position where they are on our screens, lying by omission, speaking of a relevant but holding back political situation. information that could be vital to him, information that they will then deploy later, in order to stimulate book sales. When it was time for Martin and Burns to reveal they had McCarthy’s audio, they went on Rachel Maddow’s show on MSNBC – where they teased they had even more harmful information.

But while the controversy around this practice has come to a head in recent years, it is not at all dry to label these authors and their works as the product of an ethical breach. Much of the criticism of these arrangements rests on a series of assumptions about timing. For example, we don’t know when Martin and Burns acquired the audio of McCarthy saying Trump should step down. This is information that would have been very relevant if they had had it before the House voted to impeach Trump on January 13 for his actions leading up to the assault on the Capitol or perhaps even before the Senate voted to impeach him. acquittal a month later. If they came to this knowledge after these dates, however, it is not at all clear that its public release would have made a substantial difference in anyone’s preferred political outcome, despite the fact that it would have been worthy of interest at any time.

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