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Eric Trump tried to out a journalist’s best practices, and inversely outed his lack of understanding for how the field of journalism works.
“These are the tactics used by the @WashingtonPost. @JeffBezos – you should be very proud,” he wrote in a tweet, along with a screenshot of the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold message to an employee–and potential source–from the Trump Organization.
In the email, Fahrenthold, who covers the Trump Organization, says he wants to make sure every Trump employee has his contact information in case they want to reach out to him.
“You know the company so much better than I ever could. I’d like your help to make sure I don’t miss something important,” Fahrenthold writes.
Fahrenthold explains that the source can speak to him “‘on background,’ meaning I’d never use your name in any story or tell anyone else that we spoke.” He also includes his contact information, encrypted apps, and an encrypted site for document sharing.
Twitter users quickly pointed out there’s nothing wrong with Fahrenthold message, as a matter of fact, he is doing a rather great job.
“Ummm, Eric. This is called journalism. Speaking to sources on background and anonymously sourcing documents to expose corruption is par for the course. I think you should learn how to use this other neat thing called Google before you tweet,” one user wrote.
Ummm, Eric. This is called journalism.— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) September 6, 2019
Speaking to sources on background and anonymously sourcing documents to expose corruption is par for the course.
I think you should learn how to use this other neat thing called Google before you tweet. https://t.co/FMICgPGs5v
“Have you ever read a newspaper? How do you think the stories get there? The News Fairy??” one user mocked.
Have you ever read a newspaper? How do you think the stories get there? The News Fairy??— Karen Myatt (@karenamyatt) September 6, 2019
Many took the moment to sing Fahrenthold’s praise and use it as a teaching moment for aspiring journalists.
“Rather than share the @EricTrump tweet that mocked this as somehow nefarious, I’ll just share this note by itself as a model of precisely how you do it. Young journalists everywhere would scarcely find better role models than @Fahrenthold, both in professionalism and in demeanor,” journalist Jamil Smith wrote.
quite nice of Eric Trump to show young journalists everywhere a model template for reaching out to sources https://t.co/VguBQ4Spkq— Steadman™ (@AsteadWesley) September 6, 2019
In response to the criticism, the Washington Post released a video, featuring Fahrenthold speak about the email and his experience reporting on the Trump Organization.
“This is a kind of email I send all the time,” he explains. “If you send out emails like this … in the process, you meet people you want to know that have something they want to tell you.”
He also says that he is interested in what is happening in Trump’s organization because it is unprecedented for a president to maintain ownership of their businesses while simultaneously leading the nation.
“You can’t understand what’s happening unless you understand what is happening in his businesses,” he says.
Tiffanie Drayton is a geek culture and lifestyle reporter whose work covers everything from gender and race to anime and Xbox. Her work has appeared in Complex, Salon, Marie Claire, Playboy, and elsewhere.