The release of the Mueller Report with his painful conclusion that there was no Trump Russia collusion, has sent the political left on a search for another issue. “Obstruction of Justice” is not working out so the strategists at the New York Times, GHQ of the Trump Resistance, has settled on a new theme, explained at an Editorial Board meeting last week.
In the 75 minutes of the meeting—which Slate obtained a recording of, and of which a lightly condensed and edited transcript appears below—Baquet and the paper’s other leadership tried to resolve a tumultuous week for the paper, one marked by a reader revolt against a front-page headline and a separate Twitter meltdown by Jonathan Weisman, a top editor in the Washington bureau. On Tuesday, the Times announced it was demoting Weisman from deputy editor because of his “serious lapses in judgment.”
The headline issue was a hilarious swap of headlines after the first was considered too friendly to Trump.
[R]eader expectations of the Times have shifted after the election of President Trump. The paper… saw a huge surge of subscriptions in the days and months after the 2016 election… The Times has since embraced these new subscribers in glitzy commercials with slogans like “The truth is more important now than ever.” Yet there is a glaring disconnect between those energized readers and many Times staffers, especially newspaper veterans. [Executive Editor Dean] Baquet doesn’t see himself as the vanguard of the resistance… He acknowledges that people may have a different view of what the Times is, but he doesn’t blame the marketing. “It’s not because of the ads; it’s because Donald Trump has stirred up very powerful feelings among Americans. It’s made Americans, depending on your point of view, very angry and very mistrustful of institutions.
So, readers who hate Trump went nuts after the first headline was not angry enough.
So, what to do ?
But there’s something larger at play here. This is a really hard story, newsrooms haven’t confronted one like this since the 1960s. It got trickier after [inaudible] … went from being a story about whether the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia and obstruction of justice to being a more head-on story about the president’s character.
In other words, the New York Times went all in on RussiaGate and that exploded in their faces, so now they’ve had to shift their Main Narrative to denouncing Trump as racist:
We built our newsroom to cover one story, and we did it truly well. Now we have to regroup, and shift resources and emphasis to take on a different story. I’d love your help with that.
As Audra Burch said when I talked to her this weekend, this one is a story about what it means to be an American in 2019. It is a story that requires deep investigation into people who peddle hatred.
People who peddle hatred, of course do not include New York Times staff writers.
but it is also a story that requires imaginative use of all our muscles to write about race and class in a deeper way than we have in years. In the coming weeks, we’ll be assigning some new people to politics who can offer different ways of looking at the world. We’ll also ask reporters to write more deeply about the country, race, and other divisions. I really want your help in navigating this story.
One new project is The 1619 Project.
America was racist before it was America. The Pilgrims landed in 1620, as every school child used to learn. But slavery beat them to it.
The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.
Slavery seems to be the new theme of American history, at least according to the New York Times and the Democrat Party. Interestingly enough, it was the Democrat Party, once it had been founded, that was the pillar of slavery. I doubt that will appear in the new propaganda.
Baquet: OK. I mean, let me go back a little bit for one second to just repeat what I said in my in my short preamble about coverage. Chapter 1 of the story of Donald Trump, not only for our newsroom but, frankly, for our readers, was: Did Donald Trump have untoward relationships with the Russians, and was there obstruction of justice? That was a really hard story, by the way, let’s not forget that. We set ourselves up to cover that story. I’m going to say it. We won two Pulitzer Prizes covering that story. And I think we covered that story better than anybody else.
It doesn’t matter if it was true. It was “covered.”
The day Bob Mueller walked off that witness stand, two things happened. Our readers who want Donald Trump to go away suddenly thought, “Holy shit, Bob Mueller is not going to do it.” And Donald Trump got a little emboldened politically, I think. Because, you know, for obvious reasons. And I think that the story changed. A lot of the stuff we’re talking about started to emerge like six or seven weeks ago. We’re a little tiny bit flat-footed. I mean, that’s what happens when a story looks a certain way for two years. Right?
New story to be created.
How do we cover America, that’s become so divided by Donald Trump? How do we grapple with all the stuff you all are talking about? How do we write about race in a thoughtful way, something we haven’t done in a large way in a long time? That, to me, is the vision for coverage. You all are going to have to help us shape that vision. But I think that’s what we’re going to have to do for the rest of the next two years.
In other words, invent a new story.
Do you feel that there is a person in a high position of power who can be as explicitly self-critical of this organization as Roxane Gay has, and is in a position to be, because she’s on the outside? Do you think that we would benefit from that?
This is about the spat in which NYT columnist Roxane Gay (who enjoys Intersectional Pokemon Points for being black, a woman, and obese) called the NYT’s deputy Washington editor Jonathan Weisman “unqualified” and he demanded an “enormous apology” from her. He wound up demoted, which probably tells you something about who is higher up on the diversity totem pole.
NYT internal politics and what we have to look forward to if a Democrat wins the 2020 election.
Staffer: Hello, I have another question about racism. I’m wondering to what extent you think that the fact of racism and white supremacy being sort of the foundation of this country should play into our reporting. Just because it feels to me like it should be a starting point, you know? Like these conversations about what is racist, what isn’t racist. I just feel like racism is in everything.
The hounds have caught the new scent and are ready to run again.
It should be considered in our science reporting, in our culture reporting, in our national reporting. And so, to me, it’s less about the individual instances of racism, and sort of how we’re thinking about racism and white supremacy as the foundation of all of the systems in the country. And I think particularly as we are launching a 1619 Project,
“America is racist 24/7” until November 2020 and after if a D wins.