by Natura Naturans
Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the New York Times, said recently that, after the Mueller report, the paper has to shift the focus of its coverage from the Trump-Russia affair to the president’s alleged racism.
“We built our newsroom to cover one story, and we did it truly well,” Baquet said. “Now we have to regroup, and shift resources and emphasis to take on a different story.”
In the beginning of the Trump administration, the Times geared up to cover the Russia affair, Baquet explained. “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.”
But then came the Mueller report, with special counsel Robert Mueller failing to establish that the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with Russia to fix the 2016 election. “The day Bob Mueller walked off that witness stand, two things happened,” Baquet continued. “Our readers who want Donald Trump to go away suddenly thought, ‘Holy sh*t, 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?”
Baquet used the gentlest terms possible — “the story changed” — but the fact is, the conspiracy-coordination allegation the Times had devoted itself to pursuing turned out to be false. Beyond that, Democrats on Capitol Hill struggled to press an obstruction case against the president. The Trump-Russia hole came up dry.
Now, Baquet continued, “I think that we’ve got to change.” The Times must “write more deeply about the country, race, and other divisions.”