DC Exclusives - Original Reporting

WSJ Editor Told His Reporters To Stick To The Facts — So They Leaked His Emails

FILE -- Donald Trump holds up a newspaper as he makes a reference to a story in it while walking through downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire April 27, 2011. REUTERS/Joel PageFILE -- Donald Trump holds up a newspaper as he makes a reference to a story in it while walking through downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire April 27, 2011. REUTERS/Joel Page

Be careful of critiquing journalists on your team, because they might just stick the knife in when you least expect it. Journalists from the Wall Street Journal went behind Editor Gerard Baker‘s back Wednesday and leaked private emails to the New York Times because Baker told them to “stick to reporting” when it comes to President Donald Trump.

They didn’t like critiques he made about their coverage of President Trump‘s rally in Phoenix in which Trump mercilessly bashed the media — an act he has done countless times before.

According to a piece by NYT‘s media writer Michael Grynbaum, restlessness and unease has been brewing against Baker for quite sometime. But in this instance, Grynbaum writes, Baker unleashed a series of “blunt late-night” emails that got under their skin.

In an email that arrived to staff just after midnight, Baker called their coverage “commentary dressed up as news reporting.”

He asked, “Could we please just stick to reporting what he said rather than packaging it in exegesis and selective criticism?”

The Times article distinguished phrases that appeared in the final draft from those that ultimately made it — or didn’t — to the actual newspaper.

The biggest insinuation is that Baker is too easy on Trump.

“I admire my former fellow WSJ reporters, now more than ever,” NYT‘s reporter and WSJ alum Katie Rosman wrote on Twitter.

Former President Obama aide Dan Pfeiffer also had a dig for the WSJ editor: “Gerard Baker seems like someone who saw All The President’s Men and thought Woodward and Bernstein were the bad guys.”

Emily Singer, a senior political writer for Mic, chimed in, tweeting, “This looks real bad for Gerard Baker, who was super chummy with Trump in interview transcript.”

New York Magazine Contributor Jesse Singal sympathized, writing, “Ugh, the WSJ has some really talented reporters and I’d be fairly furious if I were one of them.”

Grynbaum writes that some WSJ reporters feel that the coverage of Trump “lacks verve.” Baker addressed this touchy subject at a meeting with reporters in February in which he denied that stories about Trump were “too soft.”

Source greasing is a must. But did Baker go too far when he injected himself into a leading role in an interview with Trump in late July? Another astounding detail about this piece is that Politico shockingly published a transcript of it before WSJ put it to bed.

During the interview, Trump thanked Baker for a positive editorial about his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Politico called their conversation a “familiar” exchange.

Another weird part of the interview is when Baker wanted to exchange niceties with first daughter Ivanka Trump, who has an office but not an official title at the White House.

Turns out they partied together in the Hamptons.

Baker wanted to tell Ivanka it was “nice” to see her at the party.

Reporters sometimes do party with the people they cover.

But the optics here are undoubtedly poor.

The worst part of all this: Baker is losing his newsroom. When reporters leak your private emails it shows they don’t trust you and worse — they don’t like you.

Betsy Rothstein
the authorBetsy Rothstein
Born and raised in Akron, Ohio, Betsy has been covering and torturing Washington media for the past three years. Early on she studied journalism in England, interviewing punk rockers in Piccadilly Square who stole her notebook and ripped it up. After graduating from Union College with a B.A. in Spanish, she began her journalism career in Cambridge, Mass., working for a Cuban newspaper where she conducted man-on-the-street interviews. She asked Latinos about their love lives. “Do Latinos make better lovers or what?” She soon moved out west to Denver, where she worked for two rival Hispanic weeklies for one year each. Next stop: J-school at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, where she earned a master’s degree. In the years following grad school she worked at the Boca Raton News as a business reporter followed by a brief stint as a press secretary for former Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.). She spent the next decade on Capitol Hill covering hard news, features and gossip for The Hill Newspaper. In 2009 she quit and moved to Portland, Ore. and wrote about the many long-haired men there who distinctly resemble Jesus. They weren’t all kind (one was fat and confrontational) but she got her story. Prior to joining TheDC, Betsy was the editor of FishbowlDC, a Washington media gossip blog.

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