Eric Trump is executive vice president of the Trump Organization as well as a son of President Trump. In those capacities, he gets to see journalism from the perspective of a subject — someone whose deeds lie in judgment by the country’s scribes. In a tweet Friday afternoon, Eric Trump put his privileged spot to work for the public good, disclosing a letter from Pulitzer Prize-winning Post reporter David A. Fahrenthold:
Trump is right on the mark here. There are many reasons to be proud of this outreach, and here they are:
1) Tone. Fahrenthold is polite and respectful, and he eschews some of the cheesy approaches some reporters take in these, such as transparent flattery, insincere appeals to truth-telling ideals and such hokey come-ons as “let’s break some news.”
2) Thoroughness. Donald Trump is forever protesting that reporters who cover him in the White House don’t really have any sources. That they just make stuff up. In disclosing this letter, Eric Trump is quietly rebuking his father, making it known that behind the scenes, reporters are recruiting the Mr. Mulls of the world for their articles. Fahrenthold has done pioneering work on Donald Trump’s flimsy charitable record and the activities of his company. Working with other reporters at The Post, he has exposed how Trump properties have relied on a crew employing undocumented immigrants. Articles such as that don’t come from a single source, as journalism-professor-in-abeyance Eric Trump appears to realize.
3) Transparency. In his short letter, Fahrenthold discloses the basis on which he’d like to speak to Mull. “Background” generally means that a source gives information to a reporter; the reporter seeks to confirm the information; and then the publication publishes the information without identifying the source. This is the modus operandi for most investigative journalism. People like Mull are generally disinclined to speak with reporters over concerns that their careers will be upended. Given Trump’s apparent endorsement of these “tactics,” however, perhaps the Trump Organization will be rewarding its employees for delivering information to the media.
4) Logistics. In a brief chat with the Erik Wemple Blog, Fahrenthold noted that contacting a newsroom these days is harder than it “ought to be.” That’s why he provided explicit contact instructions. “Part of the job is finding people who know things and want to talk to you about them,” Fahrenthold said.
The past four years have brought a shower of anti-media rhetoric from the Trump family, all of it designed to upend the idea that mainstream media reporters are conscientious professionals looking to find stories and properly confirm them. Props to Eric Trump for coming forward in such a public space with important information challenging such madness, even if he risks the wrath of his father.
More of this, Trump.