Buzzfeed has defended the decision to publish the document despite admitting it contained errors and allegations which could not be substantiated
BUZZFEED’s decision to publish a full dossier detailing explosive and unverified sexual allegations against President-elect Donald Trump has sparked a debate over media ethics.
Yesterday it was reported that a Brit spy uncovered evidence of shocking material held by Russia which alleged that Trump watched prostitutes engage in degrading sex in a Moscow hotel room .
The dossier was reportedly offered to other media outlets, including the Guardian and NBC, who refused to publish it because the claims could be not be verified.
But when CNN reported that Trump had been briefed by the CIA on the lurid claims, Buzzfeed decided to publish the document in full.
The online news outlet posted the dossier along with the warning that it contained errors and claims that were “unverified and potentially unverifiable”.
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Buzzfeed editor Ben Smith has released a statement insisting that the site published the material so “Americans could make up their own minds about the allegations”.
He defended the site’s decision stating that “publishing this dossier reflects how we see the job of reporters in 2017’ and added that he had ‘serious reason to doubt the allegations.”
Many senior journalists have blasted Buzzfeed on social media for publishing the material.
Brad Heath, a reporter for USA Today, tweeted: “Not how journalism works: Here’s a thing that might or might not be true, without supporting evidence; decide for yourself if it’s legit.”
But New York Times journo Adam Goldman slammed CNN for its original report about the dossier.
He posted: “Sequence of events: @CNN finds way to talk about report and @buzzfeed uses that as reason to publish. Media critics are gonna be busy.”
In October, David Corn, Mother Jones’s Washington editor, first teased the story reporting that a Brit spy had given information about a Russian plot against Trump to the FBI.
Following Buzzfeed’s story, Corn tweeted: “Even Donald Trump deserves journalistic fairness.”
Whistleblowing site Wikileaks, who has caused numerous political storms by publishing leaked information, also slammed Buzzfeed.
It tweeted: “WikiLeaks has a 100% record of accurate authentication. We do not endorse Buzzfeed’s publication of a document which is clearly bogus.”
But some media figures defended the publication of the unsubstantiated material 10 days before Trump’s inauguration as President.
Richard Tofel, the president of news organisation ProPublica, praised Buzzfeed and its editor Smith.
He posted: “Kudos to @BuzzFeedBen and his team for publishing the dossier. Once CNN story out, citizens should have evidence to consider for themselves.”
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