At a Columbia Journalism Review conference today, Columbia Journalism School Professor Todd Gitlin read a question about this whole affair: “Did you ever question if the WikiLeaks dump was, in fact, low-hanging fruit for the media to act as a tool for the Kremlin in its mission to disrupt the election?”
Washington Post reporter Tom Hamburger replied, “Yes.”
Asked to elaborate, Hamburger continued, “It was expressed in a way quite elegantly in the quote from Scott Shane . . . in which news organizations in publishing these documents, these emails, became de facto agents of the Kremlin.” That is correct; the exact words from that New York Times story are as follows: “Every major publication, including The Times, published multiple stories citing the D.N.C. and [Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John] Podesta emails posted by WikiLeaks, becoming a de facto instrument of Russian intelligence.”
More Hamburger: “If indeed there was a plan to undermine Hillary Clinton’s preexisting vulnerabilities because of all the email complaints, other assumptions that had been deeply ingrained from coverage earlier in 2016, WikiLeaks . . . reinforced that message,” he said. “And news organizations, including mine to the extent we looked at those WikiLeaks and reported on them, ended up reinforcing that theme. . . . We did so, I would say at The Washington Post, aware that we might be dealing with documents that in effect were being provided by a foreign power that didn’t wish us well.”
Same analysis applies to this blog. We published various stories based on the WikiLeaks dumps, including the revelations that Donna Brazile, a former CNN contributor and high-ranking official at the Democratic National Committee, had passed along questions for town hall and debate events to the Hillary Clinton campaign. We judged those emails — and others — worthy of coverage.