'Wall Street Journal' Editor Defends Trump Coverage At Staff Meeting The top news executive at The Wall Street Journal, Gerard Baker, called an all-staff meeting on Monday to address newsroom concerns he is soft-pedaling coverage of the new president.
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'Wall Street Journal' Editor Defends Trump Coverage At Staff Meeting

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'Wall Street Journal' Editor Defends Trump Coverage At Staff Meeting

'Wall Street Journal' Editor Defends Trump Coverage At Staff Meeting

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal met with the newspaper's staff today to address concerns in the newsroom. Many journalists there are concerned that the paper has not been sufficiently tough on Donald Trump either as a candidate or as president. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik has been reporting on this story and joins me now from our studio in New York. David, what was the source of concern of the reporters?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Well, it particularly dates back to the campaign. I think that reporters at The Journal take pride - and rightly so - in what they do day in and day out. And yet there was a sense that the paper was tempered in how it decided to cover candidate Trump, taking a long time, like many in the media, to decide to take him seriously as a presence on the campaign trail, but then failing to really rigorously scrutinize him, particularly in the way that a business publication should. After all, The Journal is The Wall Street Journal. They should understand how an entrepreneur and businessman operates perhaps better than most. And on a number of occasions they felt that stories were soft-pedaled in The Journal or that stories were broken in other places that they were just simply not able to match.

And I think that was a disappointment for many in the paper. And they felt that there was a reason for that. They felt that Gerard Baker, the-editor-in-chief, and Rupert Murdoch, because of their conservative personal leanings, were perhaps putting their foot on the brake rather than the accelerator.

SIEGEL: Baker has been editor-in-chief there at The Journal for several years. What has he said in response to these concerns?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, he's a very smart and thoughtful guy. Before he was at The Journal, he was a conservative columnist for Rupert Murdoch's Times of London. And what he said here was look, what we have to offer the world is unbiased journalism, and that even if Donald Trump has taken an adversarial stance toward the press that doesn't mean that we have to be a combatant. We must be able to present stuff that can be trusted.

And then he said, you know, there are other news organizations that have approached it differently. And this was felt by the reporters I talked to to be an allusion to places like The Washington Post, places like The New York Times they have done some aggressive stuff. And he said, you know, and if that's what you like then you can go there. You can leave. And so some people took that a little askance. They took that as a bit of a slap. But he said, you know, what we're doing is what we've always done. We're going to continue to do it.

SIEGEL: David, you've reported today that one of the questions from a reporter there focused on the paper's controlling owner, News Corp executive Rupert Murdoch. What did the reporter want to know?

FOLKENFLIK: The reporter wanted to know - read which Rupert Murdoch, who's famous for being not only a businessman, not only a prominent media figure, but somebody who likes to influence elections and have the ear of presidents and prime ministers - the effect to which Murdoch's own conservative predilections and ultimately his embrace of Trump as a Republican candidate for president over Hillary Clinton affects news judgment. And Baker didn't say it has nothing at all. Baker said, you know, Rupert Murdoch and I talk a lot.

And that's fair. Murdoch's essentially the proprietor of that institution. But he said, we talk a lot. We confer. Obviously Rupert Murdoch also talks to Donald Trump a fair amount. And at times he's open about that, at times not so much, as when his presence at an interview done by the Times of London was sort of edited out of photographs and the transcript of the event.

It's a source of concern for reporters who are not clear on what the impetus is for certain kinds of subtle decisions late at night between, say, 5 and 8 or 9 at night in terms of inflections, headlines, ways in which stories are presented, what pages they're picked to appear on in print. They don't know where that's coming from, and that's the source of that question.

SIEGEL: What's your sense of how well Baker's remarks to the journalists were received?

FOLKENFLIK: You know, it's funny - journalists, they actually say what he says is appealing. They like the idea of making sure that people from all political persuasions and stripes will trust what they report. And they are - agree that a lot of the reporting since Trump took office has been quite impressive, indeed in the pages of The Journal. They're not sure they trust Gerry Baker under Rupert Murdoch to make these fine-tuned decisions about what appears and how it's framed. And I think that's the source of a lot of concern and a lot of trepidation within that newsroom.

SIEGEL: That's NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik in New York. David, thanks.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet.

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