From Slate, a transcription of an internal meeting at the New York Times between top editor Dean Baquet and disgruntled New York Times staffers complaining that the New York Times doesn’t call Trump racist often enough.
Dean Baquet: If we’re really going to be a transparent newsroom that debates these issues among ourselves and not on Twitter, I figured I should talk to the whole newsroom, and hear from the whole newsroom. We had a couple of significant missteps, and I know you’re concerned about them, and I am, too.
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
Not us of course, we only peddle hatred of those who deserve to be hated, not like those hateful people we all hate.
, 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.
My guess is this means that instead of mentioning Emmett Till once or twice per week, the NYT will be mentioning Emmett Till once or twice per day.
… 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.
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?
I think that we’ve got to change. I mean, the vision for coverage for the next two years is what I talked about earlier: How do we cover a guy who makes these kinds of remarks? How do we cover the world’s reaction to him? How do we do that while continuing to cover his policies? 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.
This is no longer a story where the Washington bureau every week nails some giant story by [Washington correspondent] Mike Schmidt that says that Donald Trump or Don McGahn did this. That will remain part of the story, but this is a different story now. This is a story that’s going to call on different muscles for us. The next few weeks, we’re gonna have to figure out what those muscles are.
In other words, the current Racism Mania is the NYT’s Plan B after the spectacular failure of their Plan A: Russia Mania.
Shifting some of the excerpts in different order:
… Staffer: Hi. Thank you so much for doing this. I guess I have a two-part question. The first part is: Would it be fair to say that, if [contributing op-ed writer] Roxane Gay hadn’t tweeted out what she tweeted out, that we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now? And if that is true—or, regardless of whether it’s true—I think that something that some people have been wondering is: 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.
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. 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, I feel like that’s going to open us up to even more criticism from people who are like, “OK, well you’re saying this, and you’re producing this big project about this. But are you guys actually considering this in your daily reporting?”
At this point I’m starting to feel a little sorry for Baquet, who at least comes across as a grown-up. In contrast, much of the Great Awokening seems like a Schoolgirl Snit by young women on staff.