Jay Rosen @jayrosen_nyu I teach journalism and direct the Studio 20 program at NYU, critique the press, direct @membershippzzle. 'Ambassador' for @decorrespondent's expansion to US. Sep. 09, 2018 2 min read

A common element in Woodward's book, Fire, and the anonymous op-ed in the New York Times is the manner in which they ask to be trusted. In both cases, the trust system summed up in the word transparency is declined in favor of an older system: reputation, or "stored" trust. 1/

Woodward has hundreds of hours of tapes, but we cannot hear them. He has voluminous notes, but we cannot see them. He also has documents, a few of which are apparently reproduced in the book (it isn't published yet) so that part would be an exception to this observation. 2/

On the whole, trust must attach itself to Woodward's reputation as the greatest investigative reporter of his time, and to his record of "getting it right" through exhaustive research and the triangulation of sources. Very rarely has he had to be corrected on a factual matter. 3/

Another way to say this is that the text does not contain within itself the tools required for trusting it. The "key" that allows us to read his book as an account of what happened is something external to the text: Woodward's formidable rep. 4/

In the tape of the phone call between Woodward and the man he is writing about — you should listen to it! — Trump asks several times if sources are named. Woodward never answers directly. Instead he talks about the book's extraordinary level of detail.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/09/04/transcript-phone-call-between-president-trump-journalist-bob-woodward/  5/

The phrase that captures the contrasting system best is... "Don't believe me? Look for yourself." Here are the footnotes. Here are the sources. Here are the data. Obviously the utility of that method rises as mistrust of major institutions and governing elites gains traction. 6/

The op-ed, I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration, implicitly says to us, "Don't believe me? Well, too damn bad..." There is little in the text for our trust to attach to, other than the Times reputation, which again is formidable.  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/05/opinion/trump-white-house-anonymous-resistance.html  7/

So I am not saying, "Don't trust Woodward," or "Don't trust the New York Times." But I am pointing out that journalism as a whole is in the midst of a shift from authority-based systems for the reproduction of trust, in which the key is reputation, to the transparency system. 8/

This doesn't mean that reputation, brand, and trust stored as institutional luster are passé or weak sauce. These still matter. But publishing an anonymous op-ed with explosive contents puts a strain on the reserves of trust, as I described here:  http://pressthink.org/2015/01/a-brief-banking-theory-of-newsroom-trust/  9/

When editorial institutions with built-up trust recognize rising threats to that system and add transparency practices to their cultures, they are fortifying themselves in hybrid fashion. This, I think, is smart. For more on those practices see my post  http://pressthink.org/2017/12/show-work-new-terms-trust-journalism/  END


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