Hilarious: NYT CEO Tells CNBC That Paper’s News Coverage Does Not Have a Liberal Bias

On Thursday, New York Times CEO Mark Thompson stopped by CNBC’s Power Lunch to discuss the paper’s subscription numbers since the election and hilariously argued that the newspaper doesn’t display a liberal bias because “we aim to be objective and to tell people straightforwardly what's happening.”

The extensive interview began first with a discussion of the site’s growth in subscribers that Thompson refused to label as exclusively liberal or entirely from certain pockets of the country.

“So, I mean, we’ve got millions — 220 million people came to us in November all together. You'll find 220 million points of views in that about The New York Times in that group,” he argued in one answer.

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When asked about President Trump’s assertion that The New York Times is “failing,” Thompson used the occasion to argue:

Well, I think this is the danger with fake news. Even the President of the United States can be taken in by it and end up saying things which are not true. We're not failing. We're growing audiences. We’re growing our subscriptions. 

Co-host Brian Sullivan moved the discussion to the paper’s content and wondered if there’s ever “been any conversation internally, Mike, where you guys have sat around and said, we've lost touch with America.” However, Thompson refused to entertain that notion:

THOMPSON: In fact, we would regard ourselves as a global news provider. 

SULLIVAN: A global news provider. I understand the Uppery [East] Side is America, but so is Iron Mountain, Michigan. Do you — has there been conversation where you guys look around the table and go, we’ve lost really touch. 

THOMPSON: Well, all I can tell you is we have the biggest audiences of our history. We have more subscribers.

SULLIVAN: But are they all the same person? 

THOMPSON: We hit 3 million subscribers, the biggest number in our history. We're not losing touch. On the contrary, people in the millions are coming to us.

Thompson also predicted that Times executive editor Dean Baquet would tell the Power Lunch panel that “we want to cover America and the world objectively, independently, [and] truthfully.” 

Sullivan and fellow co-host Michelle Caruso-Cabrera weren’t buying it with the former asking: “I don't mean the readers. I mean what's on the front page? Do you feel like, sometimes, that doesn’t reflect the entire country? That maybe it’s too far from the liberal point of view?”

Thompson shamelessly denied any liberal bias across any of the paper’s sections with the exception of the editorial pages (which he tacitly conceded are on the left):

THOMPSON: I don’t.

SULLIVAN: I don't know. I’m just wondering.

THOMPSON: So, the answer is no, I don't. 

SULLIVAN: Fair enough.

CARUSO-CABRERA: You don't feel there's a liberal point of view in The New York Times

THOMPSON: There's no question that the editorial pages, the opinion pages — 

CARUSO-CABRERA: No, I’m talking about the front page, the Arts page, the Business page. 

THOMPSON: I want to be really clear that in our news coverage, we aim to be objective and to tell people straightforwardly what's happening, so the news without bias without fear or favor is the famous phrase. 

To Caruso-Cabrera’s credit, she circled back to the issue a few moments later by telling Thompson that she’s “heard the following criticism” of The Times that “[t]he window for a lot of the stories, whether it's the front page, the Business page, the Arts page, the Style page, even the Sports page, race, class, gender, sexual orientation, that seems to be the window for a huge number of stories.”

Thompson shot back with a tint of frustration:

I mean, The New York Times, is very broad. You use the word page — I mean, you understand that the overwhelming majority of people coming to us come principally on smart phone and they’re at the story level rather than front page or section pages, and in a way, The Times has become, in its coverage, far broader than you're suggesting.

Here’s the relevant portion of the transcript from CNBC’s Power Lunch on January 2:

CNBC’s Power Lunch
February 2, 2017
1:37 p.m. Eastern

MELISSA LEE: How much of the 276,000 net new digital subscriptions do you think is because of Trump? Do you wake up every day, secretly, and from a business perspective, think, thank goodness there's a President Donald Trump? 

MARK THOMPSON: So, the answer is, we don't know. We were — we were — our model was accelerating. We were growing the number of subscribers, we were adding month by month, many, many months before Donald Trump came on the scene, but, no doubt, we've seen a surge in the last quarter and even as we speak.

(....)

THOMPSON: So, I mean, we’ve got millions — 220 million people came to us in November all together. You'll find 220 million points of views in that about The New York Times in that group. 

(....)

TYLER MATHISEN: The President says the failing New York Times. I assume you disagree? 

THOMPSON: Well, I think this is the danger with fake news. Even the President of the United States can be taken in by it and end up saying things which are not true. We're not failing. We're growing audiences. We’re growing our subscriptions. 

(....)

SULLIVAN: Can we talk editorial? Has there been any conversation internally, Mike, where you guys have sat around and said, we've lost touch with America? I understand you are The New York Times, but I would imagine you consider yourself a national newspaper, correct? With the internet, everybody’s national.

THOMPSON: In fact, we would regard ourselves as a global news provider. 

SULLIVAN: A global news provider. I understand the Uppery Side is America, but so is Iron Mountain, Michigan. Do you — has there been conversation where you guys look around the table and go, we’ve lost really touch. 

THOMPSON: Well, all I can tell you is we have the biggest audiences of our history. We have more subscribers.

SULLIVAN: But are they all the same person? 

THOMPSON: We hit 3 million subscribers, the biggest number in our history. We're not losing touch. On the contrary, people in the millions are coming to us. Now, if you asked me another question, which is how do we want to — how do we want to cover Trump? Dean Baquet, my colleague, editor was here —

SULLIVAN: I'm not talking about Trump. 

THOMPSON: I think what Dean Baquet would say is we want to cover America and the world objectively, independently, truthfully —

MICHELLE CARUSO-CABRERA: Do you think you're doing that now? 

THOMPSON: I do. I do believe that and I believe that's why people are coming to us in such numbers. 

SULLIVAN: I’m not saying they’re not coming to you and I hear that, that's great news. We want journalism to succeed, right? We're all kinda in the same battle. 

THOMPSON: Sure. 

SULLIVAN: We need people to pay for content. But what I’m saying three million people could be Boston, New York, San Francisco, Beverly Hills, whatever. Have you guys thought at all you're not representing people in Texas, Wisconsin? 

THOMPSON: We got subscribers in every at a time state of the union. We’ve got subscribers in Antarctica, in Korea, every part of the world, we have readers. What distinguishes our readers — the thing that really distinguishes our readers is that curiosity and that desire to learn more and to understand what's happening. That’s the — it's —

SULLIVAN: I don't mean the readers. I mean what's on the front page? Do you feel like, sometimes, that doesn’t reflect the entire country? That maybe it’s too far from the liberal point of view? 

THOMPSON: I don’t.

SULLIVAN: I don't know. I’m just wondering.

THOMPSON: So, the answer is no, I don't. 

SULLIVAN: Fair enough.

CARUSO-CABRERA: You don't feel there's a liberal point of view in The New York Times

THOMPSON: There's no question that the editorial pages, the opinion pages — 

CARUSO-CABRERA: No, I’m talking about the front page, the Arts page, the Business page. 

THOMPSON: I want to be really clear that in our news coverage, we aim to be objective and to tell people straightforwardly what's happening, so the news without bias without fear or favor is the famous phrase. 

(....)

CARUSO-CABRERA: I've heard the following criticism lodged at you and heard you answer it, so I'm going to say it again. The windows —

THOMPSON: So I can answer it again. 

CARUSO-CABRERA:  — yeah — for the public. The window for a lot of the stories, whether it's the front page, the Business page, the Arts page, the Style page, even the Sports page, race, class, gender, sexual orientation, that seems to be the window for a huge number of stories — 

THOMPSON: But you could add to that national politics, national security, you could add to it, you know, classic cultural coverage, you could add to it great lifestyle coverage. I mean, The New York Times, is very broad. You use the word page — I mean, you understand that the overwhelming majority of people coming to us come principally on smart phone and they’re at the story level rather than front page or section pages, and in a way, The Times has become, in its coverage, far broader than you're suggesting. 

NB Daily Media Bias Debate Covert Liberal Activists Political Groups Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats CNBC Power Lunch New York Times Video Brian Sullivan Mark Thompson Michelle Caruso-Cabrera
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