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Former New York Times columnist Ben Smith confronted controversial Washington Post reporter Taylor Lorenz on Thursday about why she so often uses the term “bad faith” when referring to her critics.
Lorenz, who was Smith’s colleague at The Times before joining the Post, joined him for a pre-launch event for his new media venture Semafor. Onstage, Smith asked a masked Lorenz why she assumed anyone criticizing her was acting in “bad faith.”
Lorenz, known for lashing out at critics, had used the term 16 times on Twitter alone since February.
“How do you know who’s in bad faith? Like what’s my faith? You look into people’s hearts and say, ‘That person who disagrees with me, they’re not angry against me because I’m wrong, they “are not mad at me because they think I’m too liberal, they’re basically in bad faith,” Smith said. “How do you say that?”
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Lorenz initially replied, “You can tell the difference between someone disagreeing with you and someone not acting in good faith,” when Smith simply asked, “How? “
“Depending on the nature of their question, right? Like, if they come up to you honestly and say, ‘Hey, I noticed XYZ’, you’re like, ‘Oh, okay, I’ll take your feedback,” Lorenz said. “On every story I write, I hear a lot of different points of view…but if someone takes it out on you and attacks you personally, they’re misrepresenting you, they’re actively participating in bullying…retweet people who are not there for constructive criticism. I think you can tell the difference between constructive criticism and unconstructive criticism.
Smith then suggested that some of Lorenz’s critics might just be angry or obnoxious but not acting in “bad faith” and accused her of “guessing” people’s intentions.
“How did you know that?” Smith asked.
Lorenz said it was ‘pretty obvious’ but admitted it was ‘a bit of a guess’, before Smith confronted her over the use of the phrase during a public debacle that took place. produced last month when she wrote a column about online content creators who benefited from the explosive Johnny Depp – Amber Heard Civil Lawsuit.
In his initial report, Lorenz cited two YouTubers who allegedly profited from their coverage of the trial and the report said they did not respond to requests for comment. YouTubers blasted Lorenz, saying she never contacted them before the story was published.
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Following outcry from the pair of internet influencers, the erroneous statement was initially erased from Lorenz’s report without any acknowledgment. After being called out for the stealth edit that occurred, The Washington Post issued two corrections, the first admitting that its characterization of Lorenz’s communications with YouTubers was inaccurate and the second acknowledging that it wrongly deleted the misrepresentation without editor’s note.
Finally, Lorenz attempted to set the record straight, citing “miscommunication” and blaming her editor while suggesting that any scrutiny of her reporting is a “bad faith campaign” against her and the Washington Post.
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Smith said, “There was an error in a Washington Post article” and noted that the person the error was about was furious.
Lorenz attempted to attack the YouTuber, claiming the person had been caught up in previous scandals.
“Okay, but you made a mistake about them, of course they’re crazy,” Smith said.
“Well, there was a mistake in the story,” Lorenz quickly replied, again seeming to blame the story editor, who has since been identified as associate articles editor David Malitz.
Smith then asked Lorenz why she didn’t just say, “I’m sorry we messed up.”
Lorenz claimed she did just that over email, but Smith pointed out that wasn’t what happened in public.
Lorenz claimed she was apologizing until it became “very clear it was such bad faith” and tried to say the story only mattered in media circles because it had taken place on Twitter.
“I’ll drop that in a second…but how do you know if in his heart he’s crazy or not? Bad faith or good faith?” Smith asked.
“He said he wanted to go to war with the media and destroy the Washington Post,” Lorenz replied as Smith joked that half of those present probably felt the same way.
“Honestly, it’s true,” Lorenz replied jokingly before returning to defend himself.
“I guess it comes down to judgment, as journalists we use judgment every day in how we interact with people, all I can do is respond to people in good faith…especially in case we have a mistake,” she said. said. “If you come back with this, some kind of crazy campaign that goes on for days, I’m going to assume, you know what, you’re not here.”
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Smith then said he mostly sees the term “bad faith” being used to describe right-wingers.
“The mainstream media critics, your critics, are definitely right-wing,” Smith said. “Do you think ‘bad faith’ is primarily a right-wing phenomenon?”
Lorenz said “anyone can be in bad faith” but “obviously a lot of more extreme right-wing figures” fall into that category before agreeing with Smith’s broader point.
“I agree with you that ‘bad faith’ isn’t the best term but I haven’t found a better one,” Lorenz said.
Joseph A. Wulfsohn of Fox News contributed to this report.