Our view: A dangerous way to author a best-seller
Herald editorial board President Donald Trump is trying hard to discredit a tell-all book that is as brutal as it is interesting. Disclaimer: We haven't actually read the book. We've seen numerous excerpts and heard anecdotes from "Fire and Fury,...
Herald editorial board
President Donald Trump is trying hard to discredit a tell-all book that is as brutal as it is interesting.
Disclaimer: We haven't actually read the book. We've seen numerous excerpts and heard anecdotes from "Fire and Fury," which is No. 1 on Amazon's sales ranking.
Michael Wolff, the author, gave the president no quarter. He said the president was "horrified" and "befuddled" and looked as if he had seen a ghost when he realized he won the election. Wolff also listed numerous unflattering names the president's advisers have called Trump. The least offensive - and the names we can print - are idiot, dope, child and 9-year-old.
And it took a book author, and not the mainstream media, to dig up these turnips, much to the delight of a few media critics.
But that's the problem. Wolff, during interviews in recent days, struggles to justify how, exactly, he came across the information he uses in "Fire and Fury." It boiled over Monday morning on CBS, when Wolff was pressed by anchor Norah O'Donnell.
"I think (Trump) probably had no idea he was speaking to me for this book. When I would meet the president in the White House, we would chat as though we were friends," Wolff said. "... I interviewed him at (one) point. After that, we would speak - I'm sure he didn't think they were interviews."
That might be fine for a book author, but it's also why the traditional media hasn't reported many of these inflammatory tidbits.
Anyone in the news business has experienced, in our everyday lives, someone saying "don't quote me on this." It's as if people feel their simple comments can easily be placed in print. Actually, they can be, thanks to the First Amendment.
However, the difference between book authors and journalists is this: A book author like Wolff evidently will simply take hearsay and off-the-record comments and publish them for his own gain. A journalist will take the comment and - through investigation, confirmation, record searching and follow-up interviews - work to corroborate the comment or tip until it becomes a fact.
Whether readers are for or against Donald Trump, Michael Wolff's book shouldn't be lauded as any kind of literary masterpiece. We do believe parts of of the book must be true, disturbing as they may be. Considering Wolff's reporting methods, it appears some parts of the book also could very well be false, ill-gotten information or simple bravado by the president's subordinates.
This isn't about defending President Trump. If even a fraction of Wolff's accounts are true, it should be greatly concerning to the nation.
This is about explaining why it took a book author and not the press pool to uncover these stories.
A reporter from the New York Times - which certainly isn't considered friendly with the president - has discredited several of Wolff's facts. Wolff himself wrote that accounts in the book "are in conflict with one another" and also that some may be "badly untrue."
That's a dangerous way to author a news story, a best-selling book or a report for 10th-grade social studies.