Axios’ “Scoop” on Birthright Citizenship Exemplifies Dangers of Access Journalism

In an interview released by Axios on Tuesday morning, President Trump told Jonathan Swan that he was preparing an executive order that would end birthright citizenship, the constitutional right enumerated in the Fourteenth Amendment.

“We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States … with all of those benefits,” Trump said. “It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”

In the original write-up of his interview with Trump, Swan failed to fact check the blatant lie that the U.S. is the only country that allows birthright citizenship. In fact, more than 30 other countries grant citizenship at birth, including Canada and Mexico.

Unlike the New York Times’ Julie Davis, who more assertively reported Trump’s lies as “his latest attention-grabbing maneuver days before midterm congressional elections” and “a false claim,” Swan seemed satisfied lending credence to Trump’s baseless lie.

Only after facing criticism on Twitter did Swan include this parenthetical clarification of the truth: “(More than 30 countries, most in the Western Hemisphere, provide birthright citizenship.)”

More troubling is that the lax fact checking not only eluded the online write-up but also the “exclusive” interview of Trump. Instead, Swan seemed far too preoccupied with revealing that he had successfully figured out Trump was planning on ending birthright citizenship.

Herein lies the fundamental flaw with this new age of White House reporting – as journalists covering Trump have tried to keep up with his barrage of lies and misinformation, they have fixated on breaking “exclusive scoops” before their colleagues do, even at the expense of the integrity of their reporting.

Axios, which describes its condensed news format as “Smart Brevity worthy of people’s time, attention and trust,” has established itself at the forefront of White House reporting during the Trump presidency.

Swan himself has been the first to break a multitude of important and consequential stories including Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accords, Trump considering ending DACA and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan ruling out a re-election bid this November.

However, at a time when covering the White House requires exhaustive fact checking, it is alarming and unfathomably irresponsible to report on blatant lies without clearly incorporating doses of the truth.

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