President Trump stands during a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White Essay on media bias on Feb. Bret Stephens writes the foreign-affairs column of the Wall Street Journal, for which he won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for commentary.
Bret Stephens delivered the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture this week at the University of California, Los Angeles. I’m profoundly honored to have this opportunity to celebrate the legacy of Danny Pearl, my colleague at The Wall Street Journal. My topic this evening is intellectual integrity in the age of Donald Trump. I suspect this is a theme that would have resonated with Danny. When you work at The Wall Street Journal, the coins of the realm are truth and trust — the latter flowing exclusively from the former.
When you read a story in the Journal, you do so with the assurance that immense reportorial and editorial effort has been expended to ensure that what you read is factual. I mean fundamentally, comprehensively and exclusively factual. This is how he died, losing his life in an effort to nail down a story. In the 15 years since Danny’s death, the list of murdered journalists has grown long. Paul Klebnikov and Anna Politkovskaya in Russia. Zahra Kazemi and Sattar Behesti in Iran.
Jim Foley and Steve Sotloff in Syria. When we honor Danny, we honor them, too. Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl disappeared in the Pakistani port city of Karachi on Jan 23, 2002 after telling his wife he was going to interview an Islamic group leader. And we honor the responsibility to separate truth from falsehood, which is never more important than when powerful people insist that falsehoods are truths, or that there is no such thing as truth to begin with. So that’s the business we’re in: the business of journalism. Some of you may have noticed that we’re living through a period in which the executive branch of government is engaged in a systematic effort to create a climate of opinion against the news business.
The President routinely describes reporting he dislikes as FAKE NEWS. Trump has called for rewriting libel laws in order to more easily sue the press. Administration of John Adams to see something quite like it. And so far the rhetorical salvos haven’t been matched by legal or regulatory action.