Journalists and journalism professors will be debating for years over the decision by the New York Times to print it.
“It” is a sensational, anonymous op-ed article by an unnamed person who claimed to be a “senior official” in the administration of President Donald Trump.
Op-ed is newspaper lingo for opposite the editorial page, the customary location of personal commentaries.
The critical, wide-ranging piece sent shock waves through the White House and prompted an almost comical string of denials from various cabinet members and other high-placed members of the Trump team.
The president immediately called on his embattled attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to order an investigation by the Department of Justice because of the potential national security impact of some of the allegations.
The op-ed writer said “the root of the problem is the president’s amorality” and calls Trump’s leadership style “impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.”
Dictionary.com defines “amorality” as having no moral standards, restraints, or principles;
being unaware of or indifferent to questions of right or wrong.
Trump said later that he suspects someone in national security wrote the piece. He has been critical of the nation’s various intelligence-gathering agencies since taking office in January 2017.
We believe that many Americans could be wondering if the New York Times bombshell is a payback for Trump’s unrelenting efforts to discredit all news media.
The op-ed piece was preceded by a “tell-all” book by Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, a legendary journalist who helped bring down former President Richard Nixon with his coverage of the Watergate scandal and subsequent coverup.
Totally anonymous opinion pieces are rare in traditional newspapers, done sparingly for reasons of job security of the author or authors or the prospect of prosecution in manners of alleged criminality.
Many newspaper executives consider anonymous commentaries to be professionally unethical and legally risky.
For a highly respected, world-class newspaper like the New York Times to take such a step, its editors apparently sensed a critical “right to know” situation for its readers and our country.
We applaud their decision…and their courage.