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NYT journalist’s FLOTUS comments call into question privacy in the digital age

(OP/ED) Reporters are observers, not politicians or influencers, but things can get out of hand when private becomes public.

melania trump

Breach of professionalism

Last week, Jacob Bernstein, a New York Times reporter, made disparaging comments about First Lady Melania Trump while he was at a party. Reportedly, he called FLOTUS a hooker, referring to unfounded rumors that she once worked as a high-end escort.

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For the record, last year during the election, Mrs. Trump threatened legal action against any public media outlet which attempted to frame her as a hooker.

Private isn’t always private

Per Bernstein, he was speaking privately with another person and not acting as a reporter. In fact, he does not cover Washington D.C. or politics in any way. Bernstein has publicly apologized, saying the comment was made in jest. He was at a party, speaking to model Emily Ratajkowski, a well-known feminist who speaks out for women’s rights. He thought it was a private conservation.

Many news outlets are under fire for being biased against President Donald Trump.

We have to wonder if this comment had been made about the previous administration, would the NYT have fired him?

According to an article from The Washington Post, the NYT sits on the liberal spectrum of journalism. The NYT reprimanded Bernstein privately. Later, Bernstein outed himself and apologized through a series of tweets.

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What is a journalist’s role?

A reporter’s role is to be an observer, not an influencer or a politician. The Ethical Journalism Network publishes “Five Core Principles of Journalism,” one of which states, “Journalists should do no harm. What we publish or broadcast may be hurtful, but we should be aware of the impact of our words…” As a journalist, there are standards that must be maintained to support an ethical freedom of expression.

[clickToTweet tweet=”The line of journalism versus punditry and opinion is often blurred because we have so many outlets ” quote=”Unfortunately, the line of journalism versus punditry and opinion is often blurred because we have so many outlets for communication today.”]

Here at The American Genius, we are not required to belong to a professional journalism organization to be a writer, but we are expected to inform the public nonetheless. Many of us do have political bias in our personal lives, but we are not here to push our own personal agenda, nor are we allowed to in any way. Our team adheres to the core principles of journalism, and all news organizations should. But many don’t – ’tis the state of affairs today.

Bernstein’s case should make everyone aware that private statements are not private.

Even when you’re not working, and no matter your profession, you might be presumed to be on duty and any statement you make could be used against you in the court of social media.

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#privateisntprivate

Dawn Brotherton is a Sr. Staff Writer at The American Genius with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. She is an experienced business writer with over 10 years of experience in SEO and content creation. Since 2017, she has earned $60K+ in grant writing for a local community center, which assists disadvantaged adults in the area.

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