Hillary Clinton’s emails have gotten in her way before the FBI investigation. In one message from 2009, an aide to the former secretary of State dictated terms to the political editor at the Atlantic. When Gawker revealed the exchange, the Atlantic admitted that the article went against their editorial standards, but still has done nothing to delete or edit it.
Back in February this year, Gawker broke the news about collusion between the Atlantic‘s political editor Marc Ambinder and Philippe Reines, who was Hillary Clinton’s senior advisor in the State Department and a fierce critic of the media’s coverage of the Benghazi incident.
Ambinder sent an email to Reines asking for a transcript of Clinton’s upcoming speech to the Council on Foreign Relations. Reines replied that he would send it over, but only on three conditions.
1) You in your own voice describe them as “muscular”
2) You note that a look at the CFR seating plan shows that all the envoys — from Holbrooke to Mitchell to Ross — will be arrayed in front of her, which in your own clever way you can say certainly not a coincidence and meant to convey something
3) You don’t say you were blackmailed!
The Daily Mail described the last condition as a “conspiratorial joke,” but Gawker didn’t seem so sure. Ambinder responded to Hillary Clinton’s aide by saying “got it” and included the first two conditions in his piece, despite being in clear violation of the Atlantic‘s rules on editorial integrity. In fact, all of the conditions were met by the end of the first paragraph of the story, titled “Hillary Clinton’s ‘Smart Power’ Breaks Through.”
“When you think of President Obama’s foreign policy, think of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. That’s the message behind a muscular speech that Clinton is set to deliver today to the Council on Foreign Relations. The staging gives a clue to its purpose: seated in front of Clinton, subordinate to Clinton, in the first row, will be three potentially rival power centers: envoys Richard Holbrooke and George Mitchell, and National Security Council senior director Dennis Ross.”
The Atlantic admitted that their editorial policy is “never to cede to sources editorial control of the content of our stories.” Then the publication did nothing, except add a disclaimer to the top of the story, which remains intact on its website.
The story is an example of what’s now called “transactional journalism” where reporters trade editorial control for news scoops. It’s also a demonstration of why accusatory claims against the “establishment media” have carried so much weight this election season. This particular exchange with Hillary Clinton’s camp was only revealed after a Freedom of Information Act request made by the Gawker news site.
Later on, Ambinder, who is now editor-at-large of The Week, said that the Atlantic never made him engage in that form of journalism, and admitted that the exchange made him uncomfortable at the time. He said any journalist who finds him or herself in that position “should listen to their gut feeling and push away from that.”
Gawker documented two exchanges between reporter Mike Allen and Reines as well, one for the Hillary Clinton aide to ghostwrite a piece for the Politico “Playbook” series and another offering a “no-risk” interview with Chelsea Clinton.
Still, it’s difficult to say how common transactional journalism is in Washington, D.C., and what concessions journalists will have to make for the latest scoops from either a Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump presidency. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Trump once promised to reopen libel laws to make it harder to report on politicians. One of Hillary Clinton’s super PACs also started a trolling campaign, spending at least $1 million to pay people to push back against negative stories.
[Photo by J.D. Pooley/Getty Images]