The New York Times of­fi­cially be­comes a joke news­pa­per

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - BY JOSEPH CURL

There was a day, not so very long ago, when one news­pa­per shone brighter than all oth­ers: The New York Times. The Gray Lady each day gath­ered up “All the News That’s Fit to Print” as it ruled over the jour­nal­is­tic world, be­com­ing the “news­pa­per of record” in Amer­ica.

If it wasn’t in The Times, it wasn’t all that im­por­tant. For a cen­tury and a half, the pa­per — which has won 127 Pulitzer Prizes, far more than any other — ad­hered to the high­est of stan­dards. But not any­more. Not even close. For more than two years, the ed­i­tors at The Times pro­duced hun­dreds of weak ar­ti­cles push­ing a story they claimed was solid as a rock: Pres­i­dent Trump and his cam­paign co­terie col­luded with Rus­sia to al­ter the out­come of the 2016 election. The Times hyped and re­hyped the fishy fish story, even as the nar­ra­tive was clearly crum­bling all around them.

Then Robert Mueller, the knighted keeper of the truth cham­pi­oned by the left as a near saint, blew the whole thing.

In his $32 million re­port, the spe­cial coun­sel wrote that his in­ves­ti­ga­tion “did not es­tab­lish that mem­bers of the Trump cam­paign con­spired or co­or­di­nated with the Rus­sian govern­ment in its election in­ter­fer­ence ac­tiv­i­ties.”

With that story dead and buried, The Times had to move on — fast. They needed an­other nar­ra­tive to write up daily through Election Day 2020, and they piv­oted quickly to one that the pa­per’s top edi­tor de­clares is a pure fact: Trump is a racist.

“We built our news­room to cover one story, and we did it truly well,” Ex­ec­u­tive Edi­tor Dean Ba­quet said last week in an in­ter­nal “town hall” with key mem­bers of the pa­per’s staff, a record­ing of which was leaked to Slate. “Now we have to re­group, and shift re­sources and em­pha­sis to take on a dif­fer­ent story.”

Mr. Ba­quet was shock­ingly frank as he ad­mit­ted that “our readers” were dis­traught when Mr. Mueller cleared the pres­i­dent.

“The day Bob Mueller walked off that wit­ness stand, two things hap­pened,” Mr. Ba­quet said. “Our readers who want Don­ald Trump to go away sud­denly thought, ‘Holy s--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?”

“Looks a cer­tain way”? But isn’t that what news­men do: find out all the facts and then re­port? They don’t just chase a story for two years be­cause it “looks a cer­tain way,” do they?

But then Mr. Ba­quet got to the real point: What to do next.

“I think that we’ve got to change,” he said, ad­ding that The Times’ new fo­cus will be to “write more deeply about the coun­try, race and other di­vi­sions.”

“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?” he said. “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 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,” he said.

And there you have it: The top edi­tor at the most re­spected news­pa­per in the coun­try de­clares that he and his ed­i­tors and re­porters plan to stoke so­cial dis­cord in or­der to oust a sit­ting pres­i­dent — right up to Election Day.

The “town hall” was called af­ter a fair and bal­anced edi­tor at The Times wrote a head­line cap­tur­ing Mr. Trump’s com­ments when two mass shoot­ings in one week­end shook the na­tion: “Trump urges unity vs. racism.” Af­ter out­rage from prom­i­nent lib­er­als and some staffers, the pa­per changed its head­line to “As­sail­ing hate but not guns.”

Mr. Ba­quet told top ed­i­tors that the per­son who wrote the head­line is “sick” about it. “He feels ter­ri­ble,” he said. The top edi­tor re­it­er­ated that the head­line was a mis­take — “It was a f---ing mess,” he said.

So get ready for a lot of Times sto­ries about how Mr. Trump is a racist. Hey, it doesn’t have to be true — the Rus­sia col­lu­sion ca­nard wasn’t. But clearly, the once-great New York Times isn’t go­ing to let a pesky thing like facts get in the way of a good story. Joseph Curl covered the White House and pol­i­tics for a decade for The Wash­ing­ton Times. He can be reached at [email protected] gmail.com and on Twit­ter @josephcurl.

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