The Associated Press has a salacious and fascinated story up right now. It features President Donald Trump, payoffs, an affair. It’s basically straight out of the National Enquirer.
And there’s a huge problem with it.
First, let’s get a few things out of the way.
1. The reporting is top notch. It’s got multiple sources.
The Associated Press confirmed the details of the Enquirer’s payment through a review of a confidential contract and interviews with dozens of current and former employees of the Enquirer and its parent company, American Media Inc. Sajudin got $30,000 in exchange for signing over the rights, “in perpetuity,” to a rumor he’d heard about Trump’s sex life — that the president had fathered an illegitimate child with an employee at Trump World Tower, a skyscraper he owns near the United Nations. The contract subjected Sajudin to a $1 million penalty if he disclosed either the rumor or the terms of the deal to anyone.
2. The writing is straight-laced and bare bones. There are no rhetorical flourishes at the expense of accuracy.
So what’s the problem?
It’s not thorough enough. The story goes into detail about payments made by the Enquirer to sources and how that publication goes about its seedy brand of journalism. But the AP doesn’t explain to readers that what the Enquirer does is not the normal procedures for a news outlet. The AP doesn’t pay for sources. It doesn’t “sign and kill.” Neither does the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. Your local paper doesn’t do that either. The AP, one of the best news outlets in America, should have explained that.
And in this age of Fake News allegations, it should feel compelled to do so.