No, Jared Kushner, it was not okay to delete my journalists’ work

I was editor in chief of the New York Observer when he allegedly had stories removed from the digital archive in secret. That would be a page out of his father-in-law’s ‘fake news’ book.

Delegitimizing the media is an authoritarian’s signature, and Trump does it intentionally with this kind of malicious, dangerous labeling. His favorite longer-running appellation for journalism that is inconvenient is “fake news” — which is rich, coming from a man whose material success of the past two decades was a reality show on which he pretended to fire people who were not working for him and insisted the drama was real. This is part of who he is: an incorrigible liar who believes he can bend reality to his will simply by insisting loudly and repeatedly things are not what they are.

..  I learned a few months ago his son-in-law, for whom I worked as editor in chief of the New York Observer in 2011 and 2012, is as willing to undermine the work of journalists seeking to publish the truth as Trump is. I have written about what Jared Kushner was like to work for as a businessman, but I had an unexpected coda to my time there a few months ago when a technologist I had worked with confessed to me Kushner had asked him to delete stories that were unflattering to his friends and that he had done it.

.. He could have tried to talk to me about why he objected to the stories, which is a conversation media owners and editors have on occasion at nearly all publications, but he did not.

.. To be clear, the stories were published, initially — some of them in print, and all of them on the Web. The impetus behind deleting them after the fact was to erase the digital trail of the hard work the journalists had done, to undo the factual reality of what they had reported, as far as the public record was concerned.

.. the stories were deleted long enough after publication that the journalists and their editors — including me — would not miss them.

.. There are a number of other technical reasons you might not be able to find a story in the archive, but one that would never occur to any rational journalist, or even any reasonable person, is your boss, the owner of the paper, is stealthily destroying your work and damaging the credibility of his own media publication in the process. Even in the annals of terrible media owners, this is something that would normally be credible only to a conspiracy theorist.

.. If any of us had known our work was being deleted after publication, I am fairly certain there would have been a raft of resignations.

.. what appears to be Trump family values: an active hostility to real journalism, which, if done correctly, is almost always inconvenient for people in power, and a willingness to use deceit to thwart it.