But with Clinton, the press wallowed in an unmistakable amusement as they pretended the benign emails pulled back the curtain and offered an unvarnished look at her. (They did not, unless you count risotto recipes as being an unvarnished look.) What unfolded in 2016 was comically breathless coverage of the emails, even though those pushing the hacked material often conceded that none of the emails revealed stunning information. After the campaign, the Times itself conceded that news organizations became "a de facto instrument of Russian intelligence" by publishing so many stories on the hacked emails.
The dirty little secret is that everyone in the D.C. press thought Clinton was going to win, and because there was a strange personal animus toward her, the press seemed to see its job as making sure she limped across the finish line and that her historic win be as unenjoyable as possible. The hacked emails provided a perfect vehicle for that harassment campaign.
Three prominent researchers who documented Russia's propaganda success in 2016 recently urged journalists to rethink how they treat hacked emails delivered by Russian intelligence. "Newsrooms should carefully consider how the volume of their coverage might be manipulated by strategic leaks," stressed Renee DiResta, Michael McFaul and Alex Stamos. "Most importantly, they need to break the cycle of amplifying disinformation by "covering the controversy."
That's sage advice. Here's some more for 2020: Don't follow the lead of bad actors like Roger Stone.