While the revelations in Bob Wordward’s new book about President Trump have dominated front pages of newspapers across the country this week, they have also prompted a raging debate among journalists about Wordward’s decision to withhold many of Trump’s most sensational comments for the book, rather than report them immediately. The journalism ethics involved are complicated and well worth a discussion. The strongest summary I’ve read to date comes from Erik Wemple’s blog. You’ll find it here.
I think it was ok. He must have told Trump the quotes were for the book only. If you said something was off the record and published it anyway, that would also violate ground rules.
Actually, Woodward says there was no agreement that tied his hands, but I think what he says about the difficulty of putting in perspective back in February and the need for a larger picture makes sense.
I am not a journalist so this is a lay person’s opinion. I had no problem with Woodward waiting to report for his book until you brought it up. Then it occurred to me that I really resented Bolton for holding back on information for of his book. So why was I angry at Bolton, but not Woodward? One easy answer is I don’t like Bolton and I do like Woodward. But also Bolton held back important information during the Impeachment. Woodward’s information, while interesting is less timely than Bolton. Also, Woodward isn’t really a news reporter anymore. He pretty much is an author now.
I think the big difference is that Bolton was asked to testify and refused until it was too late. Woodward still works for the Post and is clearly a journalist, but I think as Wemple and others make clear, it’s complicated and I can see both points of view.