August 24, 2017 Last Updated 8:05 am

WSJ editor’s criticism of Trump coverage draws rebukes from journalists, but is it merited?

Morning Brief: India’s Supreme Court today has apparently ruled for a right to privacy regarding the government’s attempt to create a biometric database of its citizens

The newspapers and cable news channels owned by Rupert Murdoch — that is, 21st Century Fox or News Corp — are uniform in their political views. There is no liberal Murdoch tabloid, or liberal cable news channel to balance out his conservative media holdings. Murdoch is a shrewd publisher, one that did not starve News Corp when it was spun off the way Time Warner did Time Inc., The Tribune Company did Tribune Publishing, or Gannett did… Gannett.

But Murdoch’s media properties are to toe-the-line. The most independent newsroom has always been that at The Wall Street Journal, where the news department was seen as very independent from the editorial board, that latter being extreme in its free market, conservative views.

With the election of Donald Trump, however, there has been tension — especially when Gerard Baker was placed in charge. Baker is English, and formerly worked at the Financial Times before becoming US editor in 2004 for The Times (London). He joined the WSJ as deputy editor-in-chief in 2009, becoming EIC in 2013.

His Wikipedia refers to him calling himself a “right-wing curmudgeon” and there has already been conflicts with the WSJ over what Baker thinks is coverage of the president that is too critical, too opinionated. Since his elevation to EIC a number of reporters have chosen to leave — though as the industry offers few alternatives, the numbers have been small.

The latest criticism of the newsroom from Baker followed Trump’s Phoenix speech, when Baker sent out emails to staff early on Wednesday morning accusing the stories written of being too opinionated, rather than straight reporting. “Sorry. This is commentary dressed up as news reporting,” Baker said in an email.

Media reporters pounced, seeing again as Baker interfering in the newsroom to stifle criticism of Trump. Yet, there may be more than a shred of truth to Baker’s concerns. Shortly after Trump’s speech ended, for instance, CNN’s Don Lemon lit into the speech in a way that would have been unthinkable a decade or so ago. The line between commentary and reporting has blurred, though many readers have applauded the transformation, believing that too many times reporters have been hesitant to call out blatant lies and misinformation.

The New York Times, Michael M. Grynbaum:

Wall Street Journal Editor Admonishes Reporters Over Trump Coverage

A copy of Mr. Baker’s emails was reviewed by The New York Times.

Several phrases about Mr. Trump that appeared in the draft of the article reviewed by Mr. Baker were not included in the final version published on The Journal’s website.

The draft, in its lead paragraph, described the Charlottesville, Va., protests as “reshaping” Mr. Trump’s presidency. That mention was removed.

The draft also described Mr. Trump’s Phoenix speech as “an off-script return to campaign form,” in which the president “pivoted away from remarks a day earlier in which he had solemnly called for unity.” That language does not appear in the article’s final version.

HuffPost, Carla Herreria:

Wall Street Journal Editor Berates Reporters For Critical Trump Coverage

This isn’t the first time Baker has appeared to ask staffers at the paper to hedge their language when reporting on Trump, who has close ties to the Journal’s owner Rupert Murdoch. (As the Times pointed out, Murdoch and Trump had dinner together in the White House recently.)

In January, BuzzFeed obtained emails from Baker asking editors “to stop referring to the countries targeted” in Trump’s executive order as “majority-Muslim countries,” even though Trump’s ban does indeed target majority-Muslim countries. That same month, Baker appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and said the Journal wouldn’t be calling Trump’s lies “lies” in its reporting, a move that veteran news anchor Dan Rather called “deeply disturbing.”

  • The Washington Post: ‘Stick to reporting’: Wall Street Journal editor trashes staff’s Trump article in leaked emails
  • The Hill: Wall Street Journal reporters chided by editor for ‘selective criticism’ of Trump
  • The Daily Caller: Ex-WSJ Reporters Upset Their Former Editor Demands Fact-Based News Coverage

The right to privacy is not spelled out in the US Constitution, though the Supreme Court has found that the Constitution grants a right to privacy against in cases where the government’s actions violate elements of the First, Third, Fourth and Fifth Amendments. The issue remains hotly contested.

In India, the Supreme Court has apparently struck a blow for the right of privacy in a ruling involving its attempts to create a biometric database of its citizens, known as Aadhaar.

Aadhaar described as a 12 digit identity number that is issued to Indian residents based on their biometric and demographic data, and is collected by a unit of the government known as the Unique Identification Authority of India.

It is safe to say that if the Obama administration had attempted such an effort the right-wing media would have gone crazy. But what would happen today should the Trump administration propose such a system as a way to combat immigration violations?

The Washington Post, Vidhi Doshi:

India’s Supreme Court says privacy is an intrinsic right in blow to government

In a blow to the Indian government’s efforts to roll out the world’s biggest biometric database on its billion citizens, India’s Supreme Court ruled Thursday that privacy was a fundamental right for people.

Over the past few years, the government has aggressively pushed to compile the database, known as Aadhar, by sending officials out to remote villages to take iris scans and fingerprints. To ensure complete enrollment, the government this year put out several notices restricting access to essential government services for those not part of the system.

The unanimous ruling by the nine-judge bench will have huge implications in a number of ongoing cases involving Aadhar, which means base or foundation in Hindi.

First Post, Seetha:

Memo to Aadhaar critics; it’s not an unequivocal win

Does the Supreme Court’s historic judgement holding privacy to be a fundamental right mean a slap in the face of a government pushing Aadhaar in a highly intrusive manner? On the face of it, that seems to be the case – and the opposition parties and the Aadhaar opponents are making it out to be so – but a quick read through of the judgement gives a slightly different picture.

Noting that “informational privacy is a facet of the right to privacy”, the judgement urges the government to put a robust data protection regime in place. It then goes on to say that such a regime has to do a balancing act between the interests of the individual and the legitimate concerns of the state. These legitimate concerns are listed as: “protecting national security, preventing and investigating crime, encouraging innovation and the spread of knowledge, and preventing the dissipation of social welfare benefits” (emphasis added). It then says “these are matters of policy to be considered by the Union government” while designing a data protection regime.

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