ProPublica President Defends BuzzFeed’s Release of ‘Unverified’ Dossier

January 18th, 2017 4:24 PM

BuzzFeed showed its lack of journalistic integrity last week by publishing an unverified dossier accusing President-elect Trump of communicating with Russian operatives.

After BuzzFeed published the document on Jan. 10, even liberal news outlets including The Washington Post, the Atlantic and Vox criticized BuzzFeed’s choice. But ProPublica President Richard Tofel sided with Buzzfeed, giving it “kudos” on Twitter.

“Publication will likely accelerate discovery of what in dossier is true and what not. That is what we should all want,” Tofel tweeted Jan. 11. He also challenged BuzzFeed’s critics to “defend” their argument against publicly releasing the claims.

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ProPublica describes itself as an “independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.” After Trump’s election, ProPublica, along with other liberal journalism nonprofits, received an influx of donations from liberal groups.

ProPublica has also gotten millions from liberal foundations including $5.9 million from the Knight Foundation, $3.45 million from the Ford Foundation.

Other media figures disagreed, saying BuzzFeed’s decision “crossed the line” of responsible journalism.

CNBC Special Correspondent Scott Cohn tweeted in response that BuzzFeed was engaged in “gossip” not journalism in this instance. “I'm sorry, but throwing out raw information just to see what sticks is not journalism,” Cohn said on Jan. 11.

Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote that “It’s a bad idea, and always has been, to publish unverified smears.” She argued that BuzzFeed “crossed the line” between transparency and irresponsibility when it decided to publish the dossier.

The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics states that journalists should “Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it.”

MRC Vice President of Business and Culture Dan Gainor argued that BuzzFeed shouldn’t even be considered journalism.

“This is a website that is devoted to kitten videos, listicles and gossip, and we’re calling it journalism?!” Gainor said on Intelligence Report with Trish Regan Jan. 11. He also compared calling BuzzFeed journalism to calling dog food “filet mignon.”