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Debating BuzzFeed’s decision to publish the Trump-Russia dossier

The logo of news website BuzzFeed is seen on a computer screen in Washington on March 25, 2014.
The logo of news website BuzzFeed is seen on a computer screen in Washington on March 25, 2014.

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BuzzFeed's decision to publish an unverified dossier purporting to detail Russia's compromising material on Donald Trump has fired up a vigorous debate about 21st Century journalism.

Jane Kirtley, a media ethicist with the University of Minnesota, defends the move saying "These days when the public is expecting to have access to the source material on which journalists rely, it's harder to justify not publishing the documents." Kirtley thinks BuzzFeed put the dossier in the appropriate context, plus that the intelligence community had presented the material to Trump made it a legitimately newsworthy document. While Kirtley's opinion is not an outlier on this controversy, media ethicist Kelly McBride, of the Poynter Institute, believes BuzzFeed's decision has dire consequences.

Writing in The New York Times, McBride argues, "By publishing an unverified report alleging the Russians have compromising information on President-elect Donald J. Trump, BuzzFeed made it less likely that truth will be journalists' only goal and less likely that when the truth surfaces, the public will believe it." She adds the fact that average citizens don't have the tools to sort through the dossier's allegations.

Why do you either support or oppose BuzzFeed's choice?


Jane Kirtley, professor of media ethics and law at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota

Judy Muller, an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning television correspondent and a professor of journalism at USC