Dozens have left the paper in the past year and interviews with current and ex-staffers show outrage over pressure from management to normalize Trump
.. “Instead of clearing the air about the legitimate concerns of editors and reporters about balanced coverage of Trump, Baker led off with a 20-minute scolding about how we were indeed covering Trump correctly, and anybody who disputed that was wrong and wrong-headed,” a recently departed Journal staffer told the Guardian. “That pretty much took the air out of the room. I and most of my colleagues were disgusted by his performance.”
.. Concerns about the way in which the paper was covering Trump spilled over into public view earlier this year, when newsroom emails began leaking out showing Baker criticizing his staffers for language he deemed unfair.
.. Political editors and reporters find themselves either directly stymied by Gerry’s interference or shave the edges off their stories in advance to try to please him (and, by extension, Murdoch).”
.. Meanwhile longtime observers like Sarah Ellison, a former Journal reporter and author of the book War at the Wall Street Journal about Murdoch’s takeover of the paper, is not entirely surprised to see what has happened to Murdoch’s paper under Trump.
This is the most access he has had to a sitting president ever – that is something he’s tried to do and has done in other countries particularly with British prime ministers,” Ellison said. “He’s choosing his own personal access over having any journalistic clout.”
.. With Trump in the White House, he and the Australian-born media mogul have grown closer than ever, with Murdoch topping the New York Times’ list of the president’s outside advisers.
.. Trump liked Baker’s handling of the debate, especially compared to that of Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, who had grilled Trump on his treatment of women at an earlier debate in August. During Baker’s debate, the future president largely evaded tough questioning and enjoyed more airtime than anyone else on stage. “He was unbelievably charming afterwards,” Baker said of Trump at the time. “He came up to me and said, ‘That was an extraordinarily elegant debate. You handled it incredibly well.’”
.. After Trump’s surprise victory in November, Baker landed Trump’s first post-election interview. And he wrote a column in the Spectator, the conservative British magazine, deriding US publications for pro-Hillary Clinton bias, accusing them of having “lovingly compiled their historic ‘first woman president’ editions.”
In early January 2017, Baker upped the ante, publicly expressing reluctance to accuse Trump of “lying” amid a bout of national media soul-searching over how to cover the incoming president’s false statements, and lashing out at critics in a column mocking a “fit of Trump-induced pearl-clutching among the journalistic elite”.
“If we are to use the term ‘lie’ in our reporting, then we have to be confident about the subject’s state of knowledge and his moral intent,” Baker explained of his approach.
.. staffers leaked a memo to BuzzFeed in which Baker asked them to stop using the “very loaded” description of countries included in Trump’s travel ban as “majority-Muslim,” and suggested they use wording that hewed closer to White House talking points instead.
.. the full transcript revealed a number of lines embarrassing for Trump that the paper had ignored, from Trump’s inquiry about Scottish independence – “What would they do with the British Open if they ever got out? They’d no longer have the British Open” – to his claim that the head of the Boy Scouts had called him to say he had delivered “the greatest speech that was ever made to them” the day before. (The Boy Scouts denied that.)
.. said of countries with large populations: “You call places like Malaysia, Indonesia, and you say, you know, how many people do you have? And it’s pretty amazing how many people they have.”
.. The full transcript also showed that the Journal’s White House reporters were sidelined during the interview by Baker, who dominated the questioning, speaking familiarly with Ivanka Trump about their children and a party they had both attended in the Hamptons in New York.
.. Baker highlighted what he viewed as the Journal’s best recent work, with lengthy lists of stories singled out for praise.
None of them were critical of Trump, and his top examples were not reported news but pieces of commentary flattering to Trump’s worldview
.. When he did mention reporting, he seemed more interested in highlighting soft-focus pieces on lunch trends that he noted performed well online, rather than anything about the president.
.. conservative exceptionalism of Baker, who still sometimes writes opinion columns – as he did after Brexit and the US election – in addition to his duties as the paper’s top editor.
.. “The Times and the Post have decided we’re in a unique historical moment, and a different tone or stance are required,” a current Journal staffer told the Guardian. “The Journal is not adopting that attitude.”
.. 48 Journal employees had accepted buyouts ..
.. The departures include two top White House reporters, well-respected political and policy reporters, veteran foreign correspondents, and virtually the entire national security team, some of whom were poached by the Washington Post.
.. his preferences are internalized by reporters who avoid pitching stories they expect he won’t like or who tone down language in their copy before turning it in.
.. “The main way he influenced the coverage in a political way was not by saying you can’t write about X subject,” one former staffer said. “It was more that there were certain stories that could get into the paper very easily and other stories you knew would be a fight.”
.. Others said reporters, in the DC bureau especially, have had to fight to get their harder-hitting Trump stories published, if they get published at all. “Almost everyone in the newsroom has a story about their story or a story of a colleague’s getting killed,” said a reporter. “That happens in all newspapers, but the killings run in one direction.”
.. a direct attack on the New York Times for suggesting that Hillary Clinton had the election sewn up. “On November 9, readers woke up to the difference between a New York newspaper and an American newspaper,” the ad for the Wall Street Journal said.
.. “It was really striking how any time we were writing something about News Corp they would go over it very carefully,” he told the Guardian. “With the New York Times they’d say we weren’t being hard enough on them.”
.. “The whole culture of the Journal for decades has been to be fair and accurate but also convey analysis and perspective and meaning,” another ex-Journal person said. “Gerry’s saying ‘just report the facts’, but there’s a difference between journalism and stenography.”