2017-01-12 / Views

On using ‘lie’ in reporting

(Wall Street Journal editor Gerard Baker, on criticism for his suggestion on a Sunday morning talk show that journalists be careful about using the word “lie” in reporting.)

Here’s what I said: “I’d be careful about using the word ‘lie.’ ‘Lie implies much more than just saying something that’s false. It implies a deliberate intent to mislead.”

Immediately, my remarks were followed by another fit of Trump-induced pearl-clutching among the journalistic elite. Dan Rather, a former television newsman of some renown, weighed in to call the remarks “deeply disturbing.” I will confess to feeling a little burst of pride at being instructed in reporting ethics by Mr. Rather. It feels a little like being lectured on the virtues of abstinence by Keith Richards ...

Why the reluctance? For my part, it’s not because I don’t believe that Mr. Trump has said things that are untrue. Nor is it because I believe that when he says things that are untrue we should refrain from pointing it out. This is exactly what the Journal has done ...

But I’m content for the most part to leave the judgment about motive — and mendacity — to our readers, who are more than capable of making up their own minds about what constitutes a lie.

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