Who The F**K Is Editing The New York Times? Is It Us? Is It You?
You'd think a simple rule the press could follow while Trump is in office is to never run headlines that his own press secretary would sign off on. OJ VOWS TO FIND REAL KILLERS is also technically true. It's what he said. It's just laughable bullshit. Trump keeps treating the Times like he's the roadrunner to their Wile E. Coyote who doesn't have the sense to know gravity exists until reminded of it with a large sign saying LOOK DOWN. And even then the headline would be TRUMP PROMOTES PRO-SCIENCE AGENDA.
The Times tried to light a match and open some windows with this rewritten headline: ASSAILING HATE BUT NOT GUNS. But the stench lingered, along with the larger question, "Why is the Times so stupid?" We might never know. But we're fairly certain no one at the Times is as dumb as former Clinton strategist Mark Penn, who believes journalistic integrity and editorial standards are totalitarian nightmares right out of that book by Orwell he got halfway through in high school.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called out the original headline on Twitter, and without evidence other than a paranoid fear of Big Sister, Penn concluded that the Times "caved" to AOC's political might. He whined about this to -- of course -- Tucker Carlson.
PENN: Look. You could think that either headline was okay but the process of the headline that was factually correct and frankly was unifying after this horrifying events would then be complained about by one political faction and changed, that is an astounding development in journalism. I've never seen it. Maybe it's happened before.
I've never seen a sentence this confusing, either. Maybe it's happened before. Who the fuck knows. Penn's not done being ridiculous.
PENN: Why don't they just run the headlines before AOC before they run them now and not get in this situation? I've never seen anything like this. I mean, that would be the way to go to avoid this kind of trouble. Is that journalism today? I don't think so.
The Times could benefit from more women of color on staff, but AOC already has a job. Sure, she's a millennial, but she can't manage a side hustle as the paper's executive editor. She'd have to give up her remaining bartending shifts. Dean Baquet is the current head "journalist" in charge, and we assume he personally approves the words that appear in big print on the goddamn front page. Ha! Shows you what we know over here at the mommyblog. Baquet explained to the Columbia Journalism Review how big pants journalism works these days.
BAQUET: People think the leadership of the New York Times sat down and tried to come up with a headline that mollified Donald Trump and that's just not the case.
No, it isn't. Senior leadership pretty much sees the headlines at the same time we're all collectively MST3K-ing them.
BAQUET: I don't lay out the page. I don't pick the front-page stories. I don't think that's the role of the executive editor anymore.
Uh ... it's not? What do you do all day? Maybe AOC can fit this into her schedule after all.
Baquet discontinued the "Page One" meeting back in 2015. This was when we were confident Hillary Clinton was going to win the presidency, so maybe the Times staff thought all the headlines would read something like CLIMATE CHANGE ENDED and RACIST ASSHOLE STILL NOT PRESIDENT. You could probably safely delegate that. But the White House is infected with Trump. Unfortunately, the first black executive editor does not consider these extraordinary times.
BAQUET: I get that people see the phenomenon of someone who says inflammatory statements as a new thing. I grew up in the South. I covered Edwin Edwards.
This makes no sense at all. Baquet was a reporter for the New Orleans Times-Picayune when Edwin Edwards was the corrupt Democratic governor. He was a crook but he didn't lock up children in concentration camps nor did he inspire racist murders. You probably only learned his name while reading this. If Baquet thinks Trump is just a wacky Boss Hogg crackpot, he fundamentally misunderstands the dire situation the nation's facing. It might explain his overall blasé attitude.
BAQUET: Americans have a way of thinking that nothing like this has happened before.
Brother, you work for a newspaper. Replacing the motto "all the news that fit to print" with "been there, done that" is not a distinguished legacy.
Baquet concedes that neither published Trump headline was that great. They should've tried a third one on the Goldilocks principle. But although senior leadership has gotten "casual" about looking at front page headlines, Baquet still takes responsibility for the clunkers.
BAQUET: It's important for me to say, if anyone is at fault, the executive editor is at fault.
You didn't even look at it! The buck can't stop if you're not in the building. It just keeps floating around like the self-indulgent ending of American Beauty. The top editor at our college newspaper didn't go home before approving the front page. The Times is in trouble and the captain of the Titanic is taking an ill-timed smoke break.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.