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Summer Concepcion, for Talking Points Memo:
A Newsweek editor was reportedly demoted after a reporter for the magazine was fired for an inaccurate report on President Trump’s Thanksgiving plans.
For those who missed this story over the Thanksgiving holiday, a quick refresher:
- Newsweek published an article entitled “How is Trump spending Thanksgiving? Tweeting, golfing and more,” by reporter Jessica Kwong early on Thanksgiving day. According to the Washington Examiner, the article was assigned last week to Kwong by her editor.
- After Trump’s surprise visit to Afghanistan on Thanksgiving was announced, the article remained on Newsweek for hours unchanged, until it was substantially rewritten by reporter James Crowley later in the day. Kwong says that when Trump’s trip was announced, her editor assigned another reporter to write a new story and failed to update her original piece.
- Predictably, the article is picked up by conservative media and Kwong is vilified on Twitter (despite an early public apology). Both Trump and his son condemn Newsweek on Twitter.
- Kwong is fired by Newsweek on Saturday.
- And now: the (still unnamed) editor overseeing the story has been demoted.
First, the entire affair was overblown by conservatives: the White House did a remarkable job keeping the Afghanistan visit a secret. Even though Kwong’s piece appeared to rely on aggregation rather than reporting, it’s unlikely she could’ve avoided this mistake. Firing Kwon is unquestionably the wrong decision; everyone makes mistakes and we don’t get anywhere by acting like journalists are immune to this truth. She apologized, it was on a holiday weekend, and she ultimately wasn’t responsible. Whatever.
The problem here is that Newsweek didn’t edit the story in a timely fashion, potentially misinforming readers and allowing the criticism to fester into the cycle of outrage that reverberates so easily on social media. And while you could blame the editor for that, it speaks to a deeper illness inside Newsweek’s culture; an aggressive pace that prioritizes quantity over everything else and where mistakes are realistically inevitable.