The Washington Post needs to pick a lane.

It can either hold the powerful to account or serve as a propaganda arm for the powerful. It can’t do both.

The newspaper, whose masthead proudly declares that “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” scored a major scoop last week when it reported the Department of Homeland Security had “paused” its newly created Disinformation Governance Board. The news came just weeks after the board’s onetime head Nina Jankowicz, who resigned last week, announced the creation of the group via social media.

Nearly as newsworthy as the sudden “pause” is the Washington Post’s framing of the story.

How the scoop’s author, TikTok correspondent Taylor Lorenz, tells it, unelected government bureaucrats with broad powers and legally dubious authority are the real victims in this story. Never mind the question of the constitutionality of the poorly conceived and hilariously named federal Disinformation Governance Board. Never mind that the board granted itself the authority to police speech in a country where speech is explicitly protected. Never mind the fact that the woman picked to oversee the disinformation board is herself an unrepentant and frequent purveyor of partisan disinformation, including the Russian collusion dud and the claim that the Hunter Biden was a “Russian influence” operation.

No, the Disinformation Governance Board and most especially Jankowicz, who wasn’t even vetted properly prior to her short-lived appointment, are the victims of a vicious and coordinated disinformation campaign by the “right-wing Internet apparatus,” according to the Washington Post. Lorenz and her editors would have you believe the Department of Homeland Security temporarily shuttered its newly created disinformation initiative because of “far-right influencers?” They would have us believe a major federal department caved to the demands of right-wing social media users?

This assertion, that right-wingers have the power to shutter entire federal departments merely by being critical, is ludicrous on its face. If this were the case, I assure you there would be far fewer federal agencies. In a decent world with decent editors, Lorenz’s superiors at the Washington Post would’ve sent back her draft copy and demanded that she investigate further the real reason behind the “pause.” What embarrassment, inconvenience, and actual and convincing pressure led them to pull back the project just weeks after it launched? Lorenz’s superiors should have sent back her draft copy, telling her to get the real story and stop playing as a public relations agent to the Department of Homeland Security goons who fed her an obviously sympathetic and clearly self-serving version of events. But Lorenz’s editors didn’t send back her absurd thesis because this is the world we live in: one in which Lorenz’s colleagues are apparently too terrified of her to demand she at least pretend to be a journalist.

Lorenz’s central thesis, that the board has been “paused” because right-wing critics were too critical, is not the only problem with her reporting. In fact, her story is wall-to-wall slipshod and unverified allegations, misrepresentations, and outright falsehoods.

For starters, who, exactly, are the “far-right influencers” responsible for the "pause?" Lorenz doesn’t say! Who coordinated the alleged “right-wing” harassment campaign? Lorenz doesn’t say! What, exactly, did the coordinated attacks entail? Lorenz doesn’t say! How was it coordinated? Lorenz doesn’t say!

Lorenz claims Jankowicz’s past remarks have been misrepresented and taken out of context. How, exactly, have Jankowicz’s verbatim quotes, including the time when she said she would like for federal authorities to have the power to edit private social media posts, been taken out of context? Lorenz doesn’t say! How have Jankowicz’s online videos, many of which include her spouting falsehoods, been misrepresented? Lorenz doesn’t say! None of the videos that circulated following Jankowicz’s appointment have been edited or doctored. They’re exactly as she intended.

Lorenz claims former Biden White House press secretary Jen Psaki “debunked false claims about the board during two news briefings” and “touted Jankowicz as ‘an expert on online disinformation.’” In reality, Psaki quite literally had no idea who Jankowicz was when first asked about her during a press briefing.

More specifically, Psaki said, “I don’t have any information about this individual."

“I really haven’t dug into this exactly,” the former press secretary added. “I mean, we, of course, support this effort, but let me see if I can get more specifics. … I will check and see if there’s more specifics.”

In a second briefing, Psaki was asked about Jankowicz referring to Hunter Biden’s laptop as a product of the Trump 2020 presidential campaign. Psaki ignored the laptop question altogether.

Do we have different definitions of the word "debunk?"

Lastly, it’s worth noting that amid all the noise about a supposed coordinated “right-wing” harassment campaign, the most damning and thorough takedown of Jankowicz following her appointment came not from any conservative or right-wing publication. It came from the Nation, one of the country's oldest and most infamous liberal publications.

“Painting neo-Nazi paramilitaries with an extensive record of war crimes as patriots helping refugees,” the Nation’s Lev Golinkin said of the then-Disinformation Governance Board’s chief’s past work, “all while working with a ‘disinformation’ group that turned out to run interference for violent neo-Nazi formations — that’s the experience Biden’s new disinformation czar brings to the table.”

There’s a reason Lorenz got the scoop, and it’s an uncomfortable one. A reporter’s willingness to frame a story to a source’s liking is often how scoops are secured. If you’re a Department of Homeland Security goon, or even Jankowicz herself, and you want the story of the “pause” to be something about "right-wing” attacks as opposed to a deeply unflattering and true story about regrettable decisions, federal incompetence, and the elevation of totally unqualified people to positions of power, of course you give the scoop to Lorenz. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more willing and pliant operative in corporate media.

The story is getting out either way. You may as well give it to someone who will willingly shift the blame for the abrupt “pause” from the Department of Homeland Security to "right-wing influencers,” no matter how stupid or nonsensical it sounds.

The obvious problem is: This isn’t journalism. This is public relations for a very powerful and very dangerous federal agency.

Does the Washington Post want to hold the powerful to account or serve as a propaganda arm of the powerful?

It needs to make up its mind.