So disturbed is the editorial staff of the Boston Globe over the nauseating threat of a Donald Trump presidency that it has jettisoned all established principles of journalism ethics in an embarrassing, self-destructive effort to “stop” him. Mark this down as one more wound on the culture that Trump has inflicted with his luxury ego trip, with the assistance of his irrational supporters, of course.
Today the Boston Globe hit the news stands and front walks featuring a satirical front page with headlines about a fictional, future Donald Trump presidency accompanied by a fevered “Stop Trump” editorial. The page was headed the “Ideas” section in the paper.
The Globe placed a PDF of the hoax page on its website yesterday. Dated April 10, 2016, the scare-headlined page shouts: “Deportations to begin, President Trump calls for tripling of ICE force; riots continue.” The articles about Trump’s actions as President contain no humor or satirical tone. There are solemn references to an Attorney General Chris Christie, and we learn that ex-Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly is hanging out, Ron Burgundy-style, in a bar because she’s been placed on President Trump’s black list. Readers are also informed that “U.S. soldiers refuse orders to kill ISIS families” and that there is a new libel law aimed at muzzling the press. Another story reports that Trump named his new dog after the Chinese First Lady as a calculated insult.
“This is Donald Trump’s America. What you read on this page is what might happen if the GOP frontrunner can put his ideas into practice, his words into action. Many Americans might find this vision appealing, but the Globe’s editorial board finds it deeply troubling,” the editor’s note reads. Then follows an editorial urging the GOP to stop Trump.
The editorial is fine. The Globe could have even chosen to place it on its real front page instead of creating a National Lampoon imitation and been well within journalism ethics standards. Publishing fake news stories about what a theoretical President Trump might do? This is a spectacular failure of professionalism and a journalistic disgrace. A newspaper is pledged to report the news, not imagine it. It is not ethically entitled to morph into Saturday Night Live or the Onion because it really, really, really feels strongly about an issue.
Furthermore, allowing a blabbering, posturing fool like Donald Trump to be the impetus for a tradition and credibility shattering display like this elevates him to a status he doesn’t deserve, and one that he and his mouth-breathing, “angry” mob of fans will love.
No paper published such a “future news” piece about the world under Nazi rule, or the race war if civil rights laws didn’t change. No respectable publication predicted a similar dystopian future under President Huey Long, or Joe McCarthy, or what a U.S. with open borders would look like, or what a Ron Paul style US with heroin for sale off drug store counters would lead to. That is because this means of political advocacy and commentary is reserved for the features and entertainment sections, not where facts are supposed to be, and where readers must be able to expect a reasonable attempt at truth, not a showboating effort to distort it.
Let’s start a pool when the fake front page about the world after climate change arrives, and which paper prints it.
When news magazines started becoming irrelevant thanks to the 24 hour news cycle and the internet, Time and Newsweek began engaging in increasingly desperate and unethical stunts to attract attention. In doing so, they also locked objectivity and trustworthiness out of their headquarters. It was the journalistic equivalent of the canary dying in the mine: as Ethics Alarms has stated before, “When the going gets tough, the tough get unethical.”
Now one of the most prestigious of American dailies has taken a similar step into the abyss, for there is no going back after this. The Boston Globe no longer regards reporting the news as its business and its duty. Now it declares that it will print fiction as news, to achieve its editors’ political objectives.
I agree with the Globe’s alarm, but we cannot trust a newspaper that makes this unethical calculation to sound it. Both because it shows wretched judgment and because its crosses an ethical line that must never be crossed, we cannot trust the Boston Globe again.
[ Notice of Correction: There was some confusion, initially, at least based on the accounts I read, where the fake news stories appeared. I was under the impression that they were on the actual front page, but that was not the case. This post has been clarified to make it clear that the fake page was within the paper, not on the actual front page. An indignant Boston resident, who alerted me to my error, seems to think this is a bid deal. That I misunderstood the placement was unfortunate, but I never suggested that the Globe was trying to fool anyone: even most of Trump’s dumbest acolytes presumably know it isn’t 2017 and that he isn’t currently President. The issue is using fake news stories to make a point in a news paper—any fake news stories.]