That’s a fair bet, considering that the New York Times last week published some details about the whistleblower — that he or she was "a C.I.A. officer who was previously detailed to work at the White House and had expertise on Ukraine.” The revelations surfaced against the wishes of the whistleblower’s lawyer, Andrew Bakaj, who was quoted in the New York Times story as saying, “Any decision to report any perceived identifying information of the whistle-blower is deeply concerning and reckless, as it can place the individual in harm’s way. The whistle-blower has a right to anonymity.”
A brigade of Twitter users pounded the New York Times over its decision. For example:
Do you have any idea what it’s like trying to be a decent person and worrying every day that your name will be published and people will hurt you and your family, @nytmike ? Do you? This person is a hero. You have no right to push him and his family into harm’s way🐮 #CancelNYT https://t.co/CicaHzm8qQ— Devin Nunes’ cow 🐮 (@DevinCow) September 27, 2019
Dean Baquet, the New York Times’s top editor, defended the newspaper’s decision, noting that Trump and his followers have sought to impugn the whistleblower’s credibility. “The president himself has called the whistle-blower’s account a ‘political hack job,’ " noted Baquet. “We decided to publish limited information about the whistle-blower — including the fact that he works for a nonpolitical agency and that his complaint is based on an intimate knowledge and understanding of the White House — because we wanted to provide information to readers that allows them to make their own judgments about whether or not he is credible.”
Based on Miller’s email, it’s fair to say that Bloomberg News paid close attention to the backlash that descended upon the New York Times. The email memo, which according to a Bloomberg News source was part of an informational handoff from Miller, the executive editor, states:
— When they do publish a story with his/her name, please put that story into TOP and sum it up for the web.— In our sum, say that XYZ publication has IDed the whistle blower, but not name the person ourselves. Meanwhile, link to XYZ publication.— Don’t create an aggressive social media campaign.— If and when this event occurs, we all agree to gather for a conversation regarding next steps.
Editors fear Twitter. Just weeks ago, an editor at Bloomberg Law ordered his colleagues not to tweet about the outlet’s efforts to walk back a story about a Labor Department appointee, for fear of igniting “twitter-rage.” Bloomberg Law is editorially separate from Bloomberg News.
Caution is an admirable quality in news leadership. Too much caution is not. Here, a Bloomberg executive is stating a policy of not pursuing a significant strand in what is turning out to be one of 2019′s biggest news stories. Yes, news outlets should pursue the name of the whistleblower as well as all sorts of additional details about him or her. This is the person, after all, who has actuated House Democrats to get serious about impeachment. What to do with those fruits of investigative labor can be sorted out after securing them.
Bloomberg News has, indeed, covered the Ukraine scandal, posting a video documenting Trump’s attack on the whistleblower; analyzing the complaint; highlighting the impact of Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani’s actions on the State Department. Now we know that part of its coverage plan includes waiting on other outlets to do something dramatic.
A Bloomberg spokesperson told the Erik Wemple Blog: “We do not comment on our editorial decision-making and strategies.”