The New York Times hosted one of its "Times Talks" on April 2, promising "a wide-ranging and candid discussion on press freedom in an age of alternative facts" with executive editor Dean Baquet and David E. McCraw, the paper’s top newsroom lawyer. The most embarrassing part was a discussion of why, oh why Donald Trump's rhetoric about the press "resonates" with people.
Assistant managing editor Carolyn Ryan moderated and set the table: "He’s called the press the enemy of the people. He’s coined the phrase, or popularized the phrase “fake news." He often contests both fact-based stories and I would say fact-based reality. So I think it’s been well-established that he’s fomented hostility toward the press. But my question to you is why did it seem like so many people in the country were receptive to that message? Why did that resonate with people? Why did that message work?"
Baquet called the rhetoric “deeply damaging,” and then babbled about being seen as "arrogant" and "distant" and not connected to readers back when advertising revenue was higher. Then McCraw actually stated that the press had many "successes" in promoting the civil rights movement and pushing a left-wing agenda on Vietnam and Watergate. He even touted Fake News purveyor Peter Arnett as a "great" reporter.
McCRAW: It’s easy, it’s an easy hit. I spoke a couple of years ago at a big dinner for the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, and I talked about how the surveys showed that the press was less trusted, less liked that it’d ever been in years and years and years, and I always thought that was a little dishonest. Because if you ask somebody ‘What do you think about the mass media?’ If you are a self-respecting, freedom-loving American, you say exactly what my son used to say about school in junior high. It sucks! That’s the only acceptable answer, right? But when you actually look how people operate -- they believe, they read, they actually act upon it.
I think part of it too is -- I was fortunate that when I was growing up, when I was going to college, it was a time when there were these successes by the press. So, the coverage of the civil rights movement, the coverage of Vietnam, the coverage of Watergate. All of that made you -- as an American -- happy, proud, and thankful that you had a free press.
And I remember as a high school kid, sneaking in to the University of Illinois journalism school and hearing Peter Arnett speak, the great AP war correspondent, and thinking “that’s an amazing job that guy has,’ right? Telling truth about what’s going on in Vietnam. It’s been a while since we’ve had that kind of success, that kind of triumph in covering a story that resonates across the political spectrum.
In "fact-based reality," to borrow from Carolyn Ryan, Arnett has been fired repeatedly for bogus anti-American/anti-war stories, from CNN (especially that Tailwind fiasco) and then from NBC (for doing an interview touting how the U.S. war effort "failed" on Iraqi state television).
Baquet tried to argue that all presidents complain to his paper -- not acknowledging that Democrats complain because they expect overwhelmingly positive coverage. Naturally, they upset Obama from the left, on drone attacks:
BAQUET: All presidents – and as a reporter, and editor and former Washington bureau chief of the New York Times – we had a very tense relationship with the Obama administration. In fact, I ran the Washington bureau through much of Obama’s presidency. The entire time I ran the New York Times’s coverage of Barack Obama, I never met him. Because I didn’t want to go to the White House to socialize, I don’t think that’s my role. I wouldn’t go to off-the-record dinners. They would invite ranking journalists to off-the-record dinners. I didn’t believe in that. We had – it’s easy for people to forget we had, we were covering very hard stories about the increasing, dramatic use of drones to conduct warfare in Pakistan, along the border, and they were very upset. There were tense discussions with the administration.
Are they really this clueless about why people perceive them to be liberal activists more than journalists?