I will say this about The New York Times and their coverage of the Trump administration: They didn’t change their slogan to “Democracy Dies in Darkness” like some other official outfits of the resistance. That’s really all I can say.
At least I’m not alone. In a new book, Jill Abramson — the former executive editor who helmed The Times from 2011 to 2014 — says that the paper has become “unmistakably anti-Trump” in her media-skeptic new book.
“In a soon-to-be published book, ‘Merchants of Truth,’ that casts a skeptical eye on the news business, Abramson defends the Times in some ways but offers some harsh words for her successor, Dean Baquet,” Fox News reported Wednesday.
“And Abramson, who was the paper’s only female executive editor until her firing, invoked Steve Bannon’s slam that in the Trump era the mainstream media have become the ‘opposition party.’”
“Though Baquet said publicly he didn’t want the Times to be the opposition party, his news pages were unmistakably anti-Trump,” Abramson says.
“Some headlines contained raw opinion, as did some of the stories that were labeled as news analysis.”
Part of that, she said, was a young staff that felt the Trump presidency was sui generis and that the old rules of journalistic integrity — where The Times would try to be as fair as possible within the framework of its generally left-leaning newsroom milieu — didn’t necessarily apply.
“The more ‘woke’ staff thought that urgent times called for urgent measures; the dangers of Trump’s presidency obviated the old standards,” she says.
And then there are the financial incentives. Digital subscriptions under the Trump era more than doubled to 2 million in just six months, up from 600,000.
“Given its mostly liberal audience, there was an implicit financial reward for the Times in running lots of Trump stories, almost all of them negative: they drove big traffic numbers and, despite the blip of cancellations after the election, inflated subscription orders to levels no one anticipated,” Abramson wrote.
However, she also cited The Times’ most famous owner — Adolph Ochs, the man who coined “All the News that’s Fit to Print” and practically saved the failing paper in the early 20th century.
As Abramson noted, “the more anti-Trump the Times was perceived to be, the more it was mistrusted for being biased. Ochs’s vow to cover the news without fear or favor sounded like an impossible promise in such a polarized environment.”
One issue that should be somewhat illuminating here involves a decision on a certain story involving the Kremlin; “Baquet held off on publishing a story that would have linked the Trump campaign with Russian attempts to influence the election,” she writes.
“Liz Spayd, then the Times public editor, wrote that the paper, which concluded that more evidence was needed, appeared ‘too timid’ in not running the piece, produced by a team that included reporter Eric Lichtblau.
“Baquet ‘seethed’ at this scolding, Abramson says, and emailed Lichtblau: ‘I hope your colleagues rip you a new a*****e.'”
But no bias at play here. Nosiree Bob. This is what happens when a paper of record becomes opinion journalism.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.