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Buzzfeed faces media backlash after publishing Trump-Russia claims

The dossier of material contains unsubstantiated allegations against the president-elect.

President-elect DonaldReuters

BuzzFeed News' decision to publish an "explosive" 35-page dossier alleging Russia's significant involvement in the U.S. election has led to significant backlash against the news organization.

Comprised of a series of memos, the dossier that BuzzFeed released Tuesday night contains intelligence-gathering by a former British intelligence agent. It includes allegations claims that Russian authorities were bugging various phone calls Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton took while traveling in Russia, and alleges that Trump partook in "perverted" sex acts in a Moscow hotel.

BuzzFeedprefaced the dossier with a number of caveats, namely that the content was unverified, and possibly unverifiable.

"BuzzFeed News reporters in the U.S. and Europe have been investigating various alleged facts in the dossier but have not verified or falsified them," the online publication wrote.

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The PoynterInstitute, a nonprofit organization and educator that teaches ethical decision-making and new media skills, slammed BuzzFeed for its "irresponsible" move.

Invoking WikiLeaks, Poynter said "publishing an entirely unvetted document" is a departure for media organizations.

WikiLeaks published thousands of hacked emails from the Democractic National Committee along with Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, U.S. officials told the Washington Post.

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials.

"Critics will probably say that BuzzFeed's decision to publish the document had more to do with asserting its own relevance than it did with public-spirited reporting," Poynter's Kelly McBride wrote Tuesday night. "And BuzzFeed’s retort would likely be that the public deserves to see a report that hundreds of political insiders are talking about."

"But the act of publishing the dossier in its entirety isn't journalism. Vetting the document and determining its veracity? That’s the work of journalists in 2017, or any other year."

BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith told his staff in an email after the dossier was posted online that the site decided to publish so Americans could make up their own minds about allegations surrounding the president-elect that have circulated at upper levels of the federal government.

Journalists across the country are heeding BuzzFeed's interpretation of media in 2017, but say that the move to publish is hurting the industry.

Still, BuzzFeed was not the first media outlet to reference the report, only the first to publish it in its entirety.

The online outlet posted its copy of the dossier almost immediately after CNN reported that top intelligence officials showed Trump and President Barack Obama a two-page briefing on the document.

Mother Jones wrote about it nearly a week before Election Day; the Guardian alsoreported Tuesday that Sen. John McCain passed it on to FBI Director James Comey last month.

David Corn, editor of California-based Mother Jones magazine, said in a tweet Tuesday evening that he "didn't publish the full memos from the intelligence operative because I could not confirm the allegations."

BuzzFeed's article had received more than 2.8 million views by Wednesday morning. It also gained the attention of Trump, who tweeted two hours after the article went online "FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!"

 
 
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