Apparently, the Walt Disney Corp. either hasn’t heard of or is not concerned about the concept, “Go woke, go broke.”
The company has embarked upon a new “diversity and inclusion” program called “Reimagine Tomorrow” that requires employees to participate in training sessions on subjects that include systemic racism, white privilege, white fragility, white saviors and more.
As you might imagine, that has more than a few employees concerned.
The employees agree that the “Reimagine Tomorrow’ program has become deeply politicized and engulfed parts of the company in racial conflict,” Rufo wrote.
It is built around a phrase that’s filled the airwaves over the last few months, “critical race theory,” which unfortunately won’t be going away anytime soon.
The “antiracism” program consists of a series of modules, according to Rufo. The first is called “Allyship for Race Consciousness,” which “tells employees that they must ‘take ownership of educating [themselves] about structural anti-Black racism’ and that they should ‘not rely on [their] Black colleagues to educate [them],’ because it is ’emotionally taxing.'”
It teaches employees that the U.S. has a “long history of systemic racism and transphobia” and white employees need to “work through feelings of guilt, shame, and defensiveness to understand what is beneath them and what needs to be healed.” The company suggests employees can remedy the situation by “challeng[ing] colorblind ideologies and rhetoric” such as “All Lives Matter” and “I don’t see color”; they should “listen with empathy [to] Black colleagues” and “not question or debate Black colleagues’ lived experience.”
Another module, according to Rufo, is called “What Can I Do About Racism?” Employee are told to reject “equality” which merely means “equal treatment and access to opportunities.” Rather, they should aim for “equity,” which means “the equality of outcome.”
The company asks employees to “reflect” on our “racist infrastructure” and “think carefully about whether or not your wealth, income, treatment by the criminal justice system, employment, access to housing, health care, political power, and education might be different if you were of a different race.”
Disney has collaborated on a separate program with the YWCA called the “21-Day Racial Equity and Social Justice Challenge.” This starts with the assumption that employees have “all been raised in a society that elevates white culture over others.”
Rufo write: “Participants then learn about their ‘white privilege’ and are asked to fill out a white privilege ‘checklist,’ with options including: ‘I am white,’ ‘I am heterosexual,’ ‘;I am a man,'[ ‘I still identity as the gender I was born in,’ ‘I have never been raped,’ ‘I don’t rely on public transportation,’ and ‘I have never been called a terrorist.'”
Rufo explains an exercise that employees must complete to find out if they suffer from “white fragility.” I have a feeling most will be told that they do. Statements such as “I am a good person, I can’t be racist … I was taught to treat everyone the same” are viewed “as evidence of the participant’s internalized racism and white fragility.”
If you have a degree in sociology, psychology or gender studies, it’s not my fault. This isn’t a knock on your choice. I know how it feels to waste my own money, personally carrying around a degree in philosophy. I told myself I would continue on to law school, but the new ‘lottery’ (apologies to Shirley Jackson) draft system and my amazingly low draft number altered my plans.
Imagine my surprise when reading the news today and stumbling across an article that details just exactly how I, specifically as a white person, am supposed to behave in public when visiting the newly erected shrine dedicated to George Floyd; a drug addict and thug who had a violent criminal history. I am so glad that some woke social studies major got that figured out. I just hate not knowing how to act.
What would I do if I found myself in George Floyd Square, previously known as the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago, and didn’t conform to dictatedexpected behaviors?
Now I can go and visit that hallowed ground and do exactly what the rioters, BLM racists and socially woke, useful idiots want me to do.
Mr. Narrator (interrupts): “Richard Edward, stop! You are being disrespectful to the memory of George Floyd. People are trying to build a shrine to the memory of a hero, a man who sacrificed his life on the altar of justice. Crazy Nancy said so just a couple of days ago and you know you can’t tell her she is wrong.”
Richard Edward: “What? (don’t you just hate being surprised all of the time?) Shrine to? Social justice warrior? I read in an article by my colleague Elizabeth Vaughn that he was high on fentanyl at the time of his arrest. He told the officers “I can’t breathe” and repeated “put me on the ground” several times before he was placed on the ground during his apprehension. You sure we’re talking about the same dude?”
Mr. Narrator: “Yes, Richard Edward. That was George Floyd in life. In death, he has been given an entirely different biography. In life, he was just another drug-addled thug in Minneapolis who resisted arrest for his latest suspected crime; but in death, he has become a civil rights icon, more than worthy of your obsequious genuflecting. The woke graduate sociology majors have declared it so.”
Wow, is there anything a liberal arts degree can’t do? Rewrite history? Dictate your behavior in public places, especially according to your race? Tell millions of your neighbors how to think and feel about current events? I never understood that the possession of a degree in social studies, sociology or any other of the ‘Liberal Artx’ would hold the answer to all of the world’s conundrums.
Mr. Narrator: “Don’t be snarky, Richard Edward. These folks are serious. White people need to be told how to act in a place of worship. Here, let me show you what is required of you if you visit. Newsmax captured the woke folk’s instructions in a nifty little list:
White guests need to “decenter” and “come to listen, learn, mourn, and witness.”
“Remember you are here to support, not to be supported,” the sign instructs.
White people are then asked to “contribute to the energy of the space, rather than drain it.”
Any “processing” must be brought to “other white folks” so that “BIPOC” (an acronym for “Black and Indigenous people of color”) are not harmed….
Richard Edward: “Well, that does it. I am going to plan my trip to George Floyd Square right away. But before I go, I’ll first need to decipher the social justice warriors’ instructions to ensure my behavior will be acceptable to their hall-monitors, whom I am sure will be on duty, cell phone cameras at the ready. These instructions are so wonderfully today’s pop psychology, I am positive they were written by recent graduates from any woke, ivy league school.”
“Mr. Narrator, do you know where I can go to find out how to ‘decenter’? This is important to me. My balance isn’t as good as it used to be, so any ‘decentering’ might have significantly adverse effects on my health and ability to stand upright. If I can’t stand up right, how can I follow the rest of their instructions?”
“Support? I love being a support. That’s something I can get right without any homework. I’ve raised and supported a family, been married four times and thus clearly understand the true meaning of support. Heck, I once single-handedly held up a section of fence until the last post was installed. I can easily go to the location of the Great Fentanyl Incident and hand-out money, along with my deepest personally sympathy, to the race grifters who will inevitably inhabit the sidewalks of said intersection.”
“Be a contributor? You bet. Didn’t I already say I’ve been married four times?”
“Keep my processing to myself or folks of my own race? (So much for reaching out to others.) I guess I can support and contribute to those in the George Floyd matrix without letting it upset me to the point where I become triggered and need to run off, screaming for my safe space. Processing? Well, I used to work in the tech industry and can understand a little about processing, so I guess I’ll be alright with that one, too.”
“I can do this trip, Mr. Narrator. I can make the hajj to George Floyd Square and prostrate myself before the alter of wokeness, asking for forgiveness for being a white, law-abiding citizen; one whose expectations used to be only to ‘treat others as I would like to be treated.’ That life approach is so passé.”
Mr. Narrator: “Richard Edward, I knew you would get it. There is hope for you to fit somewhere towards the bottom of the new woke, world order. We are so lucky that the sociology majors of the world have shown you your path to redemption.”
If you think that having a Liberal Artx degree and a holier than thou attitude does/doesn’t give one the right to dictate other’s behavior, please make a comment and let Richard Edward and Mr. Narrator know your thoughts.
Who’s the wokest of them all? United Airlines believes “Our flight deck should reflect the diverse group of people on board our planes every day. That’s why we plan for 50% of the 5,000 pilots we train in the next decade to be women or people of color.”
Last week, Delta Airlines’ CEO Ed Bastien denounced Georgia over their recently passed voter reform legislation. On Saturday, America Airlines followed suit by announcing their opposition to similar legislation proposed in Texas.
United Airlines was the last of the big three to weigh in. On Monday, the airline released a statement which read:
Some have questioned the integrity of the nation’s election systems and are using it to justify stricter voting procedures, even though numerous studies have found zero credible evidence of widespread fraud in U.S. elections.
Legislation that infringes on the right to vote of fellow Americans is wrong. We believe that leaders in both parties should work to protect the rights of eligible voters by making it easier and more convenient for them to cast a ballot and have it counted.
On Tuesday, the company took it a bit further with a diversity pledge.
Today, United has one of the most diverse pilot populations of any U.S. carrier with nearly 20% of our pilot group made up of women and people of color. We are working toward raising that number even higher by partnering with diversity-led organizations and continuing to remove gender and racial barriers. And we’re going one step further with plans for 50% of United Aviate Academy students being women and people of color to ensure our students reflect the diversity of the customers and communities we serve.
United announces they are continuing to remove gender and racial barriers. Yet, that is precisely what they are doing by putting quotas in place to guide their hiring decisions.
Considering that the safety of millions of passengers is at stake, why not be colorblind when making your hiring decisions? Why not choose your pilots on the basis of competence, experience and training rather than on gender and race?
A novel concept for the wokest among us, I know. But perhaps best from a safety point of view.
Our flight deck should reflect the diverse group of people on board our planes every day. That’s why we plan for 50% of the 5,000 pilots we train in the next decade to be women or people of color. Learn more and apply now: https://t.co/VbOFvFOksBpic.twitter.com/r0ScH6MQAJ
A high school teacher held up a photograph of two girls standing back to back, one of whom was white and the other black. The caption on the photo asks, “What is race?”
He asks his students what they see in the picture. The exchange that follows took place in an advanced English classroom in the very affluent town of Ashburn, Virginia. It was caught on video and published by Fox News.
One boy replies, “Just two people chillin’.”
“Right, just two people,” the teacher says. “Nothing more to that picture?”
“Nah, not really. Just two people chillin’.”
“I don’t believe that you believe that. I don’t believe that you look at this as just two people,” the teacher tells him.
“It truly is just two people though, is it not?”
“I think you’re being intentionally coy about what this is a picture of,” the teacher replies.
This continues and finally the student says, “I’m confused on what you would like me to speak on…”
I don’t think you are, I don’t know why you do this…You act as if there’s noting noticeable about this apart from the fact there are two people.”
“Well, I’m confused. Are you trying to get me to say that there are two different races in this picture?” the student asks.
“Yes, I am asking you to say that,” the teacher says.
“Well, at the end of the day, wouldn’t that just be feeding into the problem of looking at race instead of just acknowledging them as two normal people?”
“No, it’s not because you can’t look at the people and not acknowledge that there are racial differences, right?
“But, if we’re looking for equality within all this, then why would we need to point out things such as that?
“Because those differences are real things.”
My parent’s generation was very cognizant of race. But as each new generation followed, race gradually began to recede into the background.
When my own children were going through school in the 2000s and beyond, I can honestly say it wasn’t an issue, at least from our perspective.
America had made great strides toward equality and I can’t think of a country in the world that offered greater opportunities to blacks and other minority groups than the U.S. If I’m wrong, please enlighten me.
It was when Democrats decided to use race as a political weapon against former President Donald Trump, and ultimately against anyone who supported him, that it exploded as an issue.
And now everything is racist – from the books we read to our children to the pancake syrup we use.
The teacher in this video is the problem. ‘How can this boy not see what I see? He must be lying.’
‘One girl is white and one is black, see, see!’
Sorry $#&^$%#, he doesn’t see.
The racial divide in America was closing up until liberals took a chisel and pried it open again.
Sometimes a game really is just a game (or should be).
Race relationships and racial issues/themes have been front and center since the death of George Floyd. American cities burned last summer. Police officers, local, state and federal, faced more physical harm from “mostly peaceful” race-focused protestors than I can recall seeing in recent years. Lives were lost and homes and businesses were destroyed.
As I took my lazy Sunday afternoon to relax and unwind, I wandered over to the billiard table, which actually resides in my dining room. Picking up a cue, I turned to Mr. Narrator and with the forced nonchalance of someone who knows he will win, offered up a game of Eight Ball. To my satisfaction, he agreed. So here I am, ready to relax and enjoy the day, perhaps give my mind a chance to be completely away from the soul crushing, joyless and extraordinarily bleak state of race, the economy, politics and life-under-the-mask in today’s America.
Richard Edward: “Mr. Narrator, lets ignore the little observed rule of pocketing the 1 and 15 balls in their respective right and left corner pockets before the rest in the string. Let’s just play stripes and solids.”
(Truth be told, neither of us are good enough players to be sticklers about the minutiae of the game.)
Richard Edward: “Mr. Narrator, you are only seven balls plus the eight away from kicking my tail. Let’s see if you can do it this time”.
Mr. Narrator: “Richard Edward, I got you this time. I’ve been reading up about and learning about the Euclidean, spherical, and hyperbolic geometries. I’ve got the angles and spins all figured out. You are toast this time around, dude.”
I admit to being more than a little impressed. Mr. Narrator has never been much for homework or sounded so confident.
Balls are racked, Mr. Narrator takes the white cue ball and prepares to break. I notice the black eight ball is where it is supposed to be, in the center of the rack, surrounded by the other balls with their beautiful colorful stipes or rich solids. A beautiful array of diverse colors and patterns, all included in an organized structure, a pyramid, with all balls touching and supporting one another in their group.
In an instant, my lazy escape-from-reality-afternoon evaporates into a thought-provoking metaphor of life, sitting squarely in my living room. What in blazes, I can’t even play pool without the issues of race, diversity and inclusion intruding upon my game? I don’t ever want to be woke, at least ‘that’ woke.
I tell Mr. Narrator to hold on, we may have to postpone the game until we are able to fully understand the intersectionality of the color and shape of the balls, their numbers and how they are treated within the existing rules of the game. Not to mention the color of the table (black) and of the felt (gray) on the playing surface. And what about the very idea of hitting one ball with another just to bury it a pocket, to be discarded and forgotten for the remainder of the game; tossed away like its life doesn’t matter.
Mr. Narrator: “Richard Edward, you’re just scared to play me now that I’ve got the knowledge to crush you like the billiard bug you are.”
Richard Edward: “Mr. Narrator, it might be a different issue. I am white, using a blond cue. (Never having considered it before, I am not really certain about Mr. Narrator’s ethnicity). Might I be showing my white privilege if we play this game without regard to the societal implications involved? Am I woke enough to play this game?”
Mr. Narrator: “Wha…?”
Richard Edward: (Interrupts) “Mr. Narrator, just stop. Consider what you are doing. You are pounding on a white ball for each shot in the game, pummeling other balls of color and decoration; all the while purposefully avoiding the black ball until the very last shot in the game. You start by segregating the balls into two tribes, based solely upon their appearance.”
“Once you choose a preferred tribe, you ignore the other tribe completely, focusing only on the elimination of the tribe you have chosen. Once you have successfully eliminated the tribe you have chosen, you turn your focus to the elimination of the black ball. You always have to use the white ball. Only then do you get to pick which ball you hit and in what order.”
“You have complete control and nowhere does it say that you can’t smash one ball into side cushion or the other balls, even the ones you don’t care about. You can cause total chaos on the table. The balls can’t hit back. There is no place for them to hide. You own them and they are completely at your mercy. And when the game is over, you coldly rip the balls from their place of rest and set them up to be used, again and again.”
Mr. Narrator: “Richard Edward, you are more in need of a vacation from popular culture than any person I know. You do realize that not everything in life has a racial denominator don’t you? Sometimes a game is just a game.”
Mr. Narrator steps to the table and breaks open the rack with his first shot. The game is on.
If you think that the woke idea of white privilege and its attendant bogeymen of diversity and inclusion is causing an American Crisis, please leave a comment for Richard Edward to ponder.
Last week, a clearly disturbed 21-year-old white male killed eight women at three Atlanta-area massage parlors. Because six of those women were of Asian ethnicity, the media collectively and immediately began reporting this mass murder as the latest “hate crime” to be committed by a white supremacist against Asian Americans.
From President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to every MSNBC and CNN anchor, there was outrage. It was only when FBI Director Christopher Wray announced that the shootings did not appear to be racially motivated that the sermonizing from the left subsided.
An actual racially motivated attack against an Asian occurred in North Harris County, Texas last week. But you didn’t hear about it. With the exception of KPRC 2, a local media outlet, this attack was ignored by the media. Why? Because the perpetrators were black. It didn’t fit their narrative that all whites are racist.
Five black women entered a beauty supply store owned by Jung Kim, a 59-year-old Korean woman. After they knocked over several wig displays on purpose, Kim asked them to leave the store. The women left and then returned. They knocked over the displays again and two of them, Daquiesha Williams and Keaundra Young, began to violently “pummel” Kim as they “hurled racial insults” at her.
Kim was left with a severely broken nose which will require surgery to fix.
The attack, caught on the store’s surveillance camera, can be viewed in the video below.
Her son, who works in the store with her, tried to fight the women off his mother and received minor injuries.
KPRC 2 reporter Andy Cerota said the situation escalated from there. Kim’s husband arrived and the women tried to run over him with their car. This is also caught on camera.
None of us are surprised by this story or by the media’s failure to report it. Although the mainstream media has lost a great deal of credibility over the last few years, miraculously they still remain the primary source of news for many Americans.
The right wing media is small compared to the established media. The key will be to develop a large, parallel, conservative media. Former President Donald Trump’s plan to create a large social media company is just the ticket. The growth of companies like Newsmax (who I will soon be writing for!) OANN and others, will help bring about change as well.
In the meantime, we need to keep on putting the truth out there.
Much ink has been spilled about the systemic racism that exists in America. This, of course, became front and center following the death of George Floyd last May. That event, which it turns out was grotesquely misreported, served as the green light for an all-out war against the evil white man who continues to oppress blacks to this day.
It gave license to domestic terrorist groups such as Black Lives Matter and Antifa to burn and loot American cities without consequence. Contrast the anemic efforts by law enforcement to pursue those responsible for what became billions of dollars of property damage and injury to police officers and civilians, with the FBI’s robust campaign to chase down citizens who attended the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally. We’ve heard reports of FBI SWAT teams conducting pre-dawn raids, similar to the Roger Stone raid, at the homes of these “dangerous criminals.”
Where the %&$# was the FBI when former President Donald Trump was being targeted for colluding with Russia to win the 2016 election? Oh yeah, they were in on it. They were busy preparing their fraudulent applications to the FISA Court for a warrant and three renewals to spy on members of the Trump campaign. And wracking their brains to find a way to set a perjury trap for Gen. Michael Flynn so they could turn his life into a living hell for the next four years.
The riots that spread like wildfire throughout the U.S. last summer thrust the issue of systemic racism to the fore. In the midst of a pandemic and a deep recession, systemic racism became the most pressing issue of the day. The country needed to find a way – and fast – to atone for the heinous behavior of nineteenth century southern plantation owners even though hundreds of thousands of Americans died fighting a war to abolish slavery.
The mainstream media has been moving away from the practice of journalism for years. With the arrival of candidate Donald Trump, it was abandoned altogether. The media collectively embraced activism. They operate as a unit.
Unlikely as it may sound, the adoption of “race” as a top issue in American discourse was actually a deliberate decision made by The New York Times, which is arguably the most influential newspaper in America.
It happened in August 2019, long before Americans ever heard of George Floyd. The manner of Floyd’s death, as it was represented in the viral video of then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, merely served as a catalyst.
The occasion was a “crisis employee town-hall,” a staff meeting held by The Times’ executive editor Dean Baquet. A recording of his remarks was leaked to and published by Slate. (The full transcript of the meeting, via Slate, is reprinted at the bottom of the page.)
At the time, Trump had just delivered a positive and widely praised speech on two mass shootings that had taken place nearly simultaneously in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. The President had denounced racism in the strongest possible terms.
The headline in The Times read, ““TRUMP URGES UNITY VS. RACISM.” Following harsh criticism from the left for their positive take on the speech, the newspaper changed its headline to “ASSAILING HATE BUT NOT GUNS.”
The Times’ title change became a huge story, as it should have.
Baquet opened the meeting with a discussion of the “significant missteps” they had made in handling the “crisis.” But, he told employees, “there’s something larger at play here and that was their coverage of Trump.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller had given his disastrous testimony several weeks earlier which pretty much ended the Trump/Russia collusion story they had spent years covering. “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.”
The story that would dominate the news over the next two years, he said, would be race.
Race in the next year and I think, to be frank, what I hope you come away from this discussion with – race in the next year is going to be a huge part of the American story. And I mean, race in terms of not only their relationship with Donald Trump, but Latinos and immigration.
Baquet offered his “vision” of what this meant for them.
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.
So Baquet had two goals. The first was to paint President Trump as a racist. The second goal was to reshape American history putting slavery at the center of the story. This was the introduction of Nikole Hannah-Jones’ 1619 project, for which she has subsequently won a Pulitzer Prize.
The Washington Examiner’s Byron York wrote that The Times hopes to “reframe America’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.”
“The basic thrust of the 1619 project is that everything in American history is explained by slavery and race.”
The essays go on to cover the economy (“If you want to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation.”), the food we eat (“The sugar that saturates the American diet has a barbaric history as the ‘white gold’ that fueled slavery.”), the nation’s physical health (“Why doesn’t the United States have universal healthcare? The answer begins with policies enacted after the Civil War.”), politics (“America holds onto an undemocratic assumption from its founding: that some people deserve more power than others.”), daily life (“What does a traffic jam in Atlanta have to do with segregation? Quite a lot.”), and much more.
Newt Gingrich appeared on “Fox and Friends” to weigh in on this travesty. He told viewers:
The whole project is a lie. Look, I think slavery is a terrible thing. I think putting slavery in context is important. We still have slavery in places around the world today, so we need to recognize this is an ongoing story. I think certainly if you’re an African-American, slavery is at the center of what you see as the American experience. But for most Americans, most of the time, there were a lot of other things going on. There were several hundred thousand white Americans who died in the Civil War in order to free the slaves.
I saw one reference that the New York Times claims that the American Revolution was caused, in part, to defend slavery. That is such historically, factually false nonsense that it is embarrassing the New York Times is doing this.
But, if you saw the recent leaked interview town hall meeting with the New York Times editor, he basically said, look, “We blew it on Russian collusion, now we’re going to go to racism, that’s our new model, the next two years will be Trump and racism.” This is a tragic decline of the New York Times into a propaganda paper worthy of Pravda.
Baquet, in his wildest dreams, couldn’t have envisioned how perfectly his vision would be executed. This is an illustration of the enormous power the major media outlets wield over us. They not only influence events, they shape events.
Just as they perpetuated the Russian collusion hoax, they’ve methodically worked to create the systemic racism hoax.
Of course, the death of George Floyd handed them an extraordinary opportunity which they seized upon and ran with. Additionally, they worked in tandem with the like-minded leaders of Big Tech and the Democratic Party.
Their efforts have inflicted deep wounds upon our once great country.
Liberals writers and politicians will continue to rail against the systemic racism inherent in America.
But it’s not really about race. It’s about power.
Full transcript of Dean Baquet’s staff meeting: (Via Slate)
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. 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, 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.
But I also want to [inaudible] this as a forum to say something about who we are and what we stand for. We are an independent news organization, one of the few remaining. And that means there will be stories and journalism of all kinds that will upset our readers and even some of you. I’m not talking about true errors. In those cases, we should listen, own up to them, admit them, show some humility—but not wallow in them—and move on. What I’m saying is that our readers and some of our staff cheer us when we take on Donald Trump, but they jeer at us when we take on Joe Biden. They sometimes want us to pretend that he was not elected president, but he was elected president. And our job is to figure out why, and how, and to hold the administration to account. If you’re independent, that’s what you do. The same newspaper that this week will publish the 1619 Project, the most ambitious examination of the legacy of slavery ever undertaken in [inaudible] newspaper, to try to understand the forces that led to the election of Donald Trump. And that means trying to understand the segment of America that probably does not read us. The same newspaper that can publish a major story on Fox News, and how some of its commentators purvey anti-immigrant conspiracies, also has to talk to people who think immigration may cost them jobs and who oppose abortion on religious grounds. Being independent also means not editing the New York Times for Twitter, which can be unforgiving and toxic. And actually, as Amanda Cox reminds me, doesn’t really represent the left or the right. [inaudible] who care deeply about the Times and who want us to do better, we should listen to those people. But it is also filled with people who flat out don’t like us or who, as Jack Shafer put it, want us to be something we are not going to be.
By the way, let’s catch our breath before tweeting stupid stuff or stuff that hurts the paper—or treats our own colleagues in a way that we would never treat them in person. It is painful to me personally, and it destabilizes the newsroom when our own staff tweets things they could never write in our own pages or when we attack each other on Twitter. But let me end where I began: This is hard stuff. We’re covering a president who lies and says outlandish things. It should summon all of our resources and call upon all of our efforts to build a newsroom where diversity and open discussion is valued. We will make mistakes, and we will talk about them openly. We’ll do things that cause us to disagree with each other, but hopefully we’ll talk about them openly and wrestle with them. I want your help figuring out how to cover this world. I want the input—I need it. So now I’m going to open the floor to questions.
Staffer: Could you explain your decision not to more regularly use the word racist in reference to the president’s actions?
Baquet: Yeah, I’m actually almost practiced at this one now. Look, my own view is that the best way to capture a remark, like the kinds of remarks the president makes, is to use them, to lay it out in perspective. That is much more powerful than the use of a word.
The weekend when some news organizations used the word racist, and I chose not to, we ran what I think is the most powerful story anybody ran that weekend. [inaudible] [chief White House correspondent] Peter Baker, who stepped back and took Trump’s remarks, looked at his whole history of using remarks like that, and I think it was more powerful than any one word. My own view? You quote the remarks. I’m not saying we would never use the word racist. I’m talking about that weekend. You quote the remarks. The most powerful journalism I have ever read, and that I’ve ever witnessed, was when writers actually just described what they heard and put them in some perspective. I just think that’s more powerful.
Staffer: But what is [inaudible] the use of a very clear word most people [inaudible]?
Baquet: I think that that word it loses its power by the second or third time. I do. I think that these words—can I talk about the use of the word lie for one second?
Staffer: As long as you come back to my original question.
Baquet: I will, I will. I’m not running away from you, you know me.
I used the word lie once during the presidential campaign, used it a couple times after that. And it was pretty clear it was a lie, and we were the first ones to use it. But I fear that if we used it 20 times, 10 times, first, it would lose its power. And secondly, I thought we would find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of deciding which comment by which politician fit the word lie. I feel the same way about the word racist.
I think that a bizarre sort of litmus test has been created: If you don’t use the word racist, you’re not quite capturing what the president said. I’m going to argue that, first off, if you go back and look at what Peter Baker wrote that weekend, it was more powerful than the news organizations that just tossed the word out lightly as the first thing. Secondly, I’m going to ask you to go back and read the most powerful journalism of the civil rights movement. The most powerful journalism of the civil rights movement—for instance Joe Lelyveld’s portrait of Philadelphia, Mississippi, after the murders of Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman—were vivid descriptions of what people in Philadelphia, Mississippi, said and how they behaved. The lead of the story described an old white man sitting on his front porch, saying that the town wasn’t racist, saying that everybody lived peacefully in the town. And as he was saying that, a much older black man walked by, and the guy called him “boy.” That is 20 times more powerful, by my lights, than to use the word racist. If the lead of that story had been “Philadelphia, Mississippi, is a racist town,” it would have been true, but it wouldn’t have been as powerful. I don’t expect everybody to agree with me. In fact, some of the people who were in the discussion that weekend don’t agree with me, but that’s how I feel, strongly.
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?
Baquet: I know what you’re getting at—this is a roundabout public editor question, right?
Staffer: No, it’s not. It’s just true. I mean, I don’t know if Roxane hadn’t shared those tweets or those emails, whether we’d be having this conversation.
Baquet: Well, all I can say is, long before that happened I was out in the world meeting with groups of people, having one on one discussions with people. Meeting with, like, large groups of people who wanted to talk about using the words. I gave three interviews in one day. I mean, it’s possible, but I guess I think that—maybe I’m kidding myself, and tell me if I am—I guess I think that we have been having self-critical discussions before that. Do you all think we haven’t had enough of them? Let me turn it to you all, to the room.
Staffer: I mean, it doesn’t seem like there’s that much comfort with having certain kinds of discussions. And I think understanding that certain people’s jobs weren’t at risk, and that it was explicitly their job to be critical, is something that some people might relish or appreciate.
Baquet: Well, let me say something I would relish and appreciate. I would relish and appreciate anybody who wants to come to my office. And some of you have—a lot of people have—to tell me when there are things you don’t like about the New York Times. I get the question about having an outside critic, and it’s an interesting one. But to be frank, the best thing we can do is have a newsroom where, if you don’t like something the newsroom is doing, you can come to me and talk about it. I hope some people feel that way. Some people don’t, but I think that’s more important. And I promise you, if anybody wants to come talk to me or members of the masthead about anything involving coverage—and I’ve had 20 conversations in the last two weeks with people who disagree with me about coverage, or disagree with me about using the word racist, who disagree with me about a lot of stuff—we only get through this if we get to the point where we can have those kind of conversations.
Staffer: Hi. You mentioned that there could be situations when we would use the word racist. What is that standard?
Baquet: You know, we actually should have a written standard. I wasn’t expecting two weeks ago—and [associate managing editor for standards] Phil [Corbett] is working with me and the masthead to come up with it. I can think of examples, like, you know, the governor—was it the governor of Virginia with the costume? I mean, it’s hard for me to answer, but yes, I do think there are instances when we would use it. It’s hard for me to articulate an example of it.
A.G. Sulzberger: So I’m no longer in the newsroom, but Dean tends to bring me in on some of these conversations. And I think it’s useful sometimes to show the journey a little bit of how we reach these decisions. Because otherwise it can feel a little bit like this is a single case in which we’re deciding whether something is or is not racist. The conversation that I heard was really a conversation about labels and about whether we’re going to use labels as shorthand for something that we can convey through words and actions and with greater color and detail. And the moment that, for me, really hammered home the risk of some of these labels was actually when someone passed along to me a headline that we had run six months before the “Trump Makes Comments Condemned as Racist” headline. And the headline we had used six months before was, “Omar Makes Comments Condemned as Anti-Semitic.” And the amount of pushback that that I and others received in that moment from leaders in the Jewish community was really considerable. People wanted us to call this phrase, “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby,” an anti-Semitic phrase. They pointed out that this is actually an historically anti-Semitic trope. Though that it was an anti-Semitic trope was actually referred to in the body of the story, which I pointed out.
But we’re really cautious with labels, because labels tend to slip. They tend to stick to each other. And I think that the conversation I heard Dean and other members of the leadership have was about whether or not those types of shortcuts actually end up doing the exact thing that we don’t want, which is keep people from reading, would keep people from actually understanding, by giving folks who are inclined to be skeptical that that label is fairly applied—whether it’s anti-Semitic or racist or anything else—to keep those people from having an easy out not to look at what actually just occurred, and what happened, and what the implications are, and what the effects are on the community. And I think this is a really tricky moment right now. You know, someone did a study of Twitter shares that showed that 70 percent of all stories shared on Twitter were never opened. And to me, that’s just a reminder that so much of the world is judging before they’re actually engaging. And I don’t think any of us would defend the headline from last week. Not only would you not defend it, we changed it. But I do think that if you take a step further back, and you look at the entire front page, or the entire body of coverage, I actually think that you saw in unmistakable clarity all the themes that we rightfully should be addressing. I just wanted to say that.
Staffer: I wanted to ask about the Atlantic interview from last week, where you were talking about how the headline happened, and you said that the copy editors had written [inaudible] I believe that was a slip of the tongue. I do. But I think it raises important issues, because the copy desk was in fact [inaudible] frequently flagged things like this. It was the place that wrote a lot of headlines. I can recall, personally, numerous times on the copy desk when I and my fellow copy editors flagged and got changed problematic headlines or phrasings before they went into print. And I’m just wondering if there has been any discussion of the extent to which streamlined editing system increases the risk of errors like this.
Baquet: I don’t think this one was the streamlined editing system. I mean we are having conversations about the streamlined editing system and whether some desks need more help, but I don’t think that’s what happened here.
Staffer: I’m not talking specifically about, you know, was this headline attributable to it. I’m talking about, in general, there are fewer eyes on stories and the copy editors would normally have been—
Baquet: I know. I honestly don’t think there are fewer eyes on that kind of story. There were a lot of eyes on that particular story. The eyes didn’t come in all at the right time. I know. I get what you’re saying. I don’t think this was a copy desk issue. I really don’t.
Staffer: To come back to the discussion of the word racist for a second, I’m sensitive to how charged a word it is. I’m sensitive to not using labels. But I was struck a couple of years ago. I went to Little Rock for the 60th anniversary of Central High School. And I went back and I reread Homer Bigart’s story, you know, the day it happened, and it was a triple banner headline across the front page. And Homer Bigart, who was a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, his lead was, “An impressive array of federal force cowed racist agitators outside Central High School.” And I was thinking, wow, that’s blunt, it’s powerful, it’s simple, it’s direct. And I was thinking, I wonder if that would ever be the way we would do it today.
Baquet: Oh, sure. The scene he described is—I mean, I’ve actually read this, I’ve gone back and looked at those stories. I don’t think anybody would avoid using the “racist” in a scene like that. It was only Charlottesville times 100, in a historic moment. I think that headline would appear in the New York Times. And I can say, because—.
Staffer: The flipside that I worked out—
Baquet: But I think you’d also… In a weird way, I would argue that proves my point. That was such a powerful moment in American history. It still resonates in American history. It was such a powerful scene of the American South at that moment, that in that instance, to have not used the word would have been weak. And I think, to me, I would argue that that proves my point.
Staffer: But the part that got me a little bit worried about is, if you compare it to how we would cover Charlottesville, which is different, sometimes we use these other words that sound like euphemisms or like—
Staffer: —you know, “white nationalists who are racially tinged” or we use things that seem to normalize and clean up and sanitize an ugly reality.
Baquet: Yeah, I hate racially tinged, racially charged, too. I think those are worse. If you’re going to do what I said, if you’re gonna put your money where your mouth is and actually just describe it, you shouldn’t use sort of half-assed words like racially charged or racially tinged either. You should either say it when the moment comes or you should describe the scene. I agree with that.
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?”
Baquet: You know, it’s interesting, the argument you just made, to go back to the use of the word racist. I didn’t agree with all of this from Keith Woods, who I know from New Orleans and who’s the ombudsman for NPR. He wrote a piece about why he wouldn’t have used the word racist, and his argument, which is pretty provocative, boils down to this: Pretty much everything is racist. His view is that a huge percentage of American conversation is racist, so why isolate this one comment from Donald Trump? His argument is that he could cite things that people say in their everyday lives that we don’t characterize that way, which is always interesting. You know, I don’t know how to answer that, other than I do think that that race has always played a huge part in the American story.
And I do think that race and understanding of race should be a part of how we cover the American story. Sometimes news organizations sort of forget that in the moment. But of course it should be. I mean, one reason we all signed off on the 1619 Project and made it so ambitious and expansive was to teach our readers to think a little bit more like that. Race in the next year—and I think this is, to be frank, what I would hope you come away from this discussion with—race in the next year is going to be a huge part of the American story. And I mean, race in terms of not only African Americans and their relationship with Donald Trump, but Latinos and immigration. And I think that one of the things I would love to come out of this with is for people to feel very comfortable coming to me and saying, here’s how I would like you to consider telling that story. Because the reason you have a diverse newsroom, to be frank, is so that you can have people pull together to try to tell that story. I think that’s the closest answer I can come.
Staffer: Yeah, I want to follow up and disentangle a couple of things that I’ve often seen conflated in these meetings. You have questions like “should we call Donald Trump a racist” and these broader discussions of our coverage getting flattened with the reason that I think we’re here today, which is really narrowly the question of how we present the work that we do and the headlines that end up on our work. Because this is sort of the thing that a lot of us who are, in some capacity, public representatives of the Times feel ourselves called to answer for. Because there are these patterns of getting headlines wrong in a very specific way that recur repeatedly and in a way that makes me think that it’s a process issue. And to me, the question of whether you put a phrase like “racial fires” in a headline is not actually about whether we think it’s OK to call Donald Trump racist. It’s whether we think it’s OK to use euphemisms instead of direct, clear speech in a headline. Which I think is a question you would ask of any administration.
And the issue with last week’s headline was not really about Trump per se. It was really more broadly about what kind of credulousness we want to reflect in terms of an administration—any administration. Or about other cases where we’re sort of shying away from the real content of the story to put a milder spin on it in the headline, which is sometimes actively misleading. And the process by which these headlines end up on stories is often kind of opaque, and it’s not always clear whether we’re taking on board the criticism that I think is very valid of a lot of these headlines. It is a real storyline about the Times out there now, that we are kind of repeatedly making mistakes that other people aren’t making so much. And it is something that’s kind of baffling to me from where I sit, and I guess I’m curious what is our process? How are we thinking about it? Do we perceive ourselves making the same errors repeatedly, or do we see these as sort of isolated episodes?
Baquet: I’m going to be really honest. I actually don’t think we make a whole lot more mistakes. I think I’ve made clear I’m going to own up to my mistakes. I don’t think we make a whole lot more mistakes than the Washington Post or anywhere else. After the headline issue came up, I think I heard from 10 executive editors, pretty much every major news organization. My favorite one was from somebody—I guess I shouldn’t use their names—was somebody who said, “I wish people cared about my headlines as much as they care about yours.”
Look, we are scrutinized. I ran another newspaper. I’ve never seen anything like this. We are scrutinized more than any other news organization in the country, in the world probably. To be frank, some of that comes with being the biggest and, I would argue, the best. And as hard as it is to do this, I think we have to accept it. We have to accept that maybe what goes along with being the New York Times is that we get scrutinized more. Maybe we should even say we deserve it more. You know? That’s the position I’m going to take. I mean, it’s almost funny when I read all of the attacks on the New York Times for not having a public editor. Nobody has a public editor! We’re not the only ones that made the decision to not have a public editor.
My main point is, yeah, we do get beat up more. And I think we just have to own up to [inaudible] in the process. Should I, do you want me to walk through what happened in this headline again, or is that—
Staffer: I would like to know. I mean I think in this specific case that’s now been made public. But in general, kind of, how does this happen?
Baquet: I mean, I think that if I had to (and I will) engage in a little bit of self-criticism, I made a decision. So we’re talking about print headlines here for a second. I made a decision that I still think was the right decision for the New York Times. We’re not just a print newspaper anymore. We have a television show. We have a podcast. We have a daily website that reaches tens of millions people. I thought that the days when the executive editor sat and sort of picked the stories, fly spec-ed the headlines … I just thought that that was sending the wrong signal to the room. What does that say to our video team if executive editor only cares about the print front page? I also, by the way, assembled a remarkable group of people who worry over the print front page. I’m going to also say that nobody puts out a print front page like the New York Times. Don’t let getting whacked the last couple of weeks make you forget that. But I think I should probably spend a little more time thinking about it. You know, again, I’ve said half of the big decisions I’ve had to make as executive editor I’ve made in my bathrobe at home.
You know, I didn’t look closely enough at it. I should make sure that the front page of the New York Times, which is still our glory, gets more scrutiny than it does, and we should all look at it. In this case, I’ve said it before, I think the layout boxed in the print hub in a way that probably made it impossible to put a great headline on it. But I think I should probably spend a little more stewing on the front page. Does that answer your question?
Staffer: Kind of. I mean, I think—
Baquet: Push! Push, man. They’ve never been shy.
Staffer: I do think, I mean, I guess I see it as not a matter of like getting beat up over the past couple weeks. I feel like there’s a sort of weariness with the share of the criticism directed towards us that is about the headlines that detracts from the discussion that we’d like to be having about the actual [inaudible].
Baquet: I agree, but I’m going to say one thing. And then [associate managing editor and Metro editor] Cliff [Levy] wants to say something. We let it distract us, if you don’t mind my saying. You know, there’s a little bit of … there are HR people in the room? There’s a little bit of a wallowing gene in the New York Times. Look, I don’t think any executive editor has owned up to more mistakes than I have. I don’t know if that means I’ve made more mistakes. Maybe it does. Or if it means I just believe in transparently owning up to your mistakes. But the last few months of the New York Times, we have produced some remarkable reports. Before I came in here, somebody from the national desk sent me a note pointing out just how amazing our coverage of El Paso was and how much it happened to have been driven by Latino reporters who felt powerfully about that story and wanted to surface it. We’ve got to move away from the position where we want to just beat ourselves up and not think about that stuff a little bit, too.
Cliff wanted to say something.
Cliff Levy: I just want to kind of delicately push back a little bit on this question of headlines. Headlines are very, very hard, as you well know. I spent a lot of time thinking about headlines. My colleagues on Metro might tell you that I’m kind of obsessed with them in an unhealthy way. A lot of the pushback that we often receive about headlines, particularly on social media is from people who have never written a headline, don’t have an understanding of how hard it is, the burdens on a headline. Particularly the burdens on a headline in print space where you are really limited. But the burden’s in digital, as well. We are limited by length and SEO and all these other factors. People who criticize our headlines—particularly people who are not in this newsroom—you’ll say to them, “Well, what would you want this headline to be?” And they repeat back something to you that’s like 15 lines or 15 words. You know, people want headlines that blitz out any nuance. They want headlines that say, “Donald Trump Is a Racist,” or “Donald Trump Is a Liar” or things that really take out all the texture and fabric of the article itself. And I will just say, you know, they’re extremely hard to do well, and I think in general we do them extremely well. And I think Phil would probably want to add something to that.
Philip Corbett: I did want to push back just a little bit more. Sorry, we’re all pushing back on you. This might not be a widely held view, but I would dispute the idea that when we have made mistakes about headlines in the last months or couple of years that they have always been in the same direction, which I think is how you put it. In other words, that the mistakes you’re seeing are when we’re going, shall we say, too easy on Donald Trump. There certainly have been headlines where I feel like that has been a failing. But I will say, honestly, there have been headlines that many of us have been concerned about or asked to have changed or have had discussion about where I felt the problem was the opposite. Where we were showing what could be read as bias against Trump, and were perhaps going too far in the opposite direction. So this goes to Cliff’s point that headlines are hard to write anyway, and we’re going to get them wrong sometimes. But I would not accept the criticism that the ones we get wrong necessarily show that we’re bending over backwards in one direction, because I’ve definitely seen headlines that I’ve been uncomfortable with that have fallen too far on both sides of the line.
Staffer: So I share the concerns about how coverage can be done aggressively, but not from a default point of view, which can feed into outcomes that repeatedly read to a number of people across the newsroom—and then outside as well—being too cautious or winding up in a zone that fails to accurately represent the situation to the readers. Which is, of course, the mission that we all do believe in. And I have had conversations and exchanges with a number of colleagues in different roles, from different backgrounds across the newsroom in the past week. And one of the things that I’ve brought up—and I know, Dean, you and I have talked about this a bit, too, is that some people, despite your welcoming stance as far as bringing feedback to you, are hesitant to speak up. Or don’t necessarily feel like they can do that safely, or have the standing to do that. Or some may not even have the access to do that. I wondered if it would be OK for me to share some of the feedback that I got that people asked for to be anonymous, but that I thought was thoughtful and could be useful.
Staffer: OK, so here’s just a selection that I thought was thoughtful.
“Saying something like divisive or racially charged is so euphemistic. Our stylebook would never allow it in other circumstances. I am concerned that the Times is failing to rise to the challenge of a historical moment. What I have heard from top leadership is a conservative approach that I don’t think honors the Times’ powerful history of adversarial journalism. I think that the NYT’s leadership, perhaps in an effort to preserve the institution of the Times, is allowing itself to be boxed in and hamstrung. This obviously applies to the race coverage. The headline represented utter denial, unawareness of what we can all observe with our eyes and ears. It was pure face value. I think this actually ends up doing the opposite of what the leadership claims it does. A headline like that simply amplifies without critique the desired narrative of the most powerful figure in the country. If the Times’ mission is now to take at face value and simply repeat the claims of the powerful, that’s news to me. I’m not sure the Times’ leadership appreciates the damage it does to our reputation and standing when we fail to call things like they are.”
And then this is a question that is more specifically about the process that you are also addressing: “Why are we passing off the biggest, most important part of the stories that we know very well”—this is from a writer—“that we know very well to this strangely anonymized print hub I am often completely unaware of who is even writing the headlines for my stories. Why can’t I or one of the editors who actually worked on the story just write it?”
Staffer: You know, I hurt the print hub in this case because I didn’t think sufficiently about. … We had created a front page, because we had two big stories, one of which had a two-column headline. One had a single line, four-column headline. It was designed with the print hub, but I don’t think I sat and thought about, what can you really say in four words. Right? Now, I do not scrutinize the print hub headlines before it goes to press. I happen to think that many of the people on the print hub are some of our best editors and are extremely talented. The second I saw that headline—I always get the front page that night—I kind of put my head in the hands. And I called in before I knew there was a Twitter storm and said, you know, this is off. We’ve really got to fix this. But I think in some ways, you know, those of us involved that day did a disservice to our colleagues, because it was a very hard thing to write. They were writing it on deadline. And because the headline had seemed fine on the web all day, it didn’t occur to me it would be problematic. But on the web they had a very large banner, and I think one of the things we’ve learned is that, if we’re going to do something that’s a banner, more of us should be involved. But I think I should’ve thought more about, if you have just four words, what can you write? I had been envisioning something like “A Day of Reckoning.”
Staffer: Hi, I actually wanted to raise a different issue, not to stop the discussion about language. About the push for social media and audience engagement, it’s very clear that the direction of the paper and of management is to incentivize and reward more engagement on social media. But then you have the things that get the most traffic on social media or something like people’s Twitter accounts, where it might push them to write inflammatory or stupid or ill-thought-out things. So we’re kind of incentivizing people to get eyes, but that also incentivizes people to say stupid things on social media.
Baquet: You know, other people can jump in here, I’m sort of unconvinced that the tweets that have made me uncomfortable happened because people wanted to get eyes. I mean, I don’t think the tweet that sparked part of this discussion, from an editor in the Washington bureau, was because he wanted to get eyes. I think he just. … We somehow have convinced ourselves that Twitter is not the real world, and that you can say things on Twitter that you wouldn’t be able to say in a newspaper story. And we need to just convince ourselves that that is not true. I mean, others should jump in, but I’m not sure that the tweets that have made me uncomfortable are tweets that were just done to attract attention. But others?
Staffer: I’m wondering what is the overall strategy here for getting us through this administration and the way we cover it. Because I think one of the reasons people have such a problem with a headline like this—or some things that the New York Times reports on—is because they care so much. And they depend on the New York Times. They are depending on us to keep kicking down the doors and getting through, because they need that right now. It’s a very scary time. And when something like this happens, or we have opinion columnists—because people really can’t tell the difference between op-eds and news anymore—but when we have people who post and tweet incendiary things, like Bret Stephens, people don’t understand. I think they get confused as to what we’re trying to do.
Staffer: And I’m just wondering, how can we tighten that up?
Baquet: Are you talking about coverage, or are you talking about social media?
Staffer: I’m talking about all of it.
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 terms of how to keep people from having these discussions on social media, I’m not 100 percent sure. I think we should tighten the rules a little, which always upsets people a little bit. I mean, there were tweets that people at the New York Times retweeted or liked last week that were really painful for this newsroom and for me personally. So I’m gonna keep saying that, and maybe we should talk about the rules, too.
Staffer: It appears to be that the public narrative around the headline is different from the internal narrative that I’ve been hearing. So for example, I know that the copy desk thing was a slip. But I have also heard that someone actually raised concerns about the headline and was overruled. So, I’m just trying to reconcile what I’m hearing from my co-workers internally and what I’m hearing from my other co-workers in the public.
Baquet: I reached out to the person who raised questions about the coverage that day, who works on the print hub, and it’s a little more complicated than that. She was leaving town, and I was leaving town. She thought it was a bad headline, but mainly she thought that particular story shouldn’t led the paper. Her complaint was different than the narrative that has developed, which is that one person on the print hub threw their body in front of the headline. In my exchanges with her, that wasn’t the case. She thought that that story should not have led the paper. And she thought the headline was bad, but mainly she thought the whole package, the whole architecture—but mainly the story—is what was wrong. And I told her frankly, in my exchange with her, which was good and helpful, I said look I disagree with you on this one. I’m happy to sit down and talk to you in person. I thought that was the right lead of the paper. I would not have minded, by the way, if she’d wandered into my office, knocked on the door, which I told her and which I will keep telling her when I talk to her in person. If she had come in and said, I think you picked the wrong lead of the paper, that’s a little bit of a different narrative from the headline narratives. That make sense?
Staffer: Hi. I just kind of wanted to return to the internal debate before the headline went to print. Do you think there was a breakdown there other than space pressure or time pressure? And if so, I wonder what you think that that breakdown was?
Baquet: Again, I had this exchange with an editor as she was going away and I was going away. I’m not sure that was a breakdown. I think the breakdown was that we drew a page that was really, really, really hard to put a thoughtful headline on. This was a really complicated story. It was not a story that said, Trump said X. In fact, what was wrong with the story is that the “Trump said X” headline wasn’t enough to capture the hypocrisy and all the kind of nuance we’re talking about. So I think we built a page on deadline that made it really hard to put a headline on it. So we set it up for a bad headline, and the people who were in a position to judge it quickly and change it, like me, did not look at it until too late. So I guess this is a system breakdown. We didn’t have a system in place where the people who would recognize it and then change it—And maybe, by the way, the right change—if you want me to tell you—the perfect scenario for this headline would have been like this: The print hub—I’m not blaming the print hub, I’m blaming me, because I set up this system—the print hub comes in and says, “We tried, we cannot put a headline on that story with this layout. You need to redraw the page.” We would have redrawn the page in a way that allowed us to put a more nuanced headline on it. That would have been, in retrospect, the ideal situation.
Staffer: But the editors were looking at it, do you have the impression that they felt that that was necessary, or there was a recognition that there was a problem?
Baquet: I should ask [associate masthead editor] Tom [Jolly] and others on the print hub. I mean, there was a recognition among the masthead when it got sent around. As soon as the mockup of the front page got passed around, I looked at it. Matt looked at it. Everybody looked at and said, “Oh shit.” The first edition had already closed, so that was a system breakdown. Does that answer it? I’m trying to walk you through the process a little bit. Go ahead.
Staffer: It just seems like the people who could have recognized that, perhaps, did not or were not on the team to look at the first edition.
Baquet: Tom, do you have a thought about that? Tom runs the print hub.
Tom Jolly: Well, I think, a) the problem was that the editor felt like that difficult headline had to tie directly into the lead story. If we had made it a broader headline that addressed the package of four different stories, “the day of reckoning” or something along those lines, it would have solved it. In terms of a system problem, print hub had a meeting Thursday, and one of the things that we’ve realized is, we need to be looking at the front page. First of all, we need to be talking to the editors who are going to be writing the headlines that come in in late afternoon. They’re not a part of the discussion during the day. We need to talk to them, give them a sense of what the storyline is. And then we need to review the page before it comes out. One of the problems here was that the page was already published, and that page goes to half of our print readers. So at that point, there was no bringing it back. Right? So yes we’ve addressed system issues that we’ve identified, and I’ve also talked with the editor from the stories going around. And she doesn’t feel that she was rebuffed. Obviously, we would never want that to happen. And I think as Dean explained that was a little bit of a bigger issue. But I think the biggest thing is discussing the storyline at a time in the late afternoon or early evening when the editors who are just coming in have an opportunity to think it out one more time.
Baquet: Can I say something in support of the print hub? Because just for the record, I’m not sure I love this narrative of these sort of anonymous editors you know sitting on another floor fucking up the New York Times. The print hub builds the front page of the New York Times every day. Pick up today’s front page. It is it is a thing of beauty. They do it every day. They’re not some anonymous nobodies. They’re fine journalists, assembled from across the newsroom, assembled from other news organizations. The original sin, I can say since I’m a Catholic and a former altar boy, the original sin was ours. Was setting up a front page that was really, really difficult to build a headline around. But don’t, do not… Go visit the print hub. I mean these are journalists just like us. I talked to the editor who wrote the headline. He’s sick, you know. I mean he feels terrible. He feels more terrible than he should, to be frank. But it feels terrible, and I don’t want to walk away from this with all of us thinking that they’re a group of fumble fingers on another floor of the New York Times secretly fucking up the New York Times. They’re not.
Staffer: When it came to actually changing that headline, how much influence did the reader input have? I mean, OK, all you guys didn’t like it. You were unhappy. But was a change in the works, or was it the response?
Baquet: We were all—it was a fucking mess—we were all over the headline. Me. Matt. The print hub. Probably [assistant managing editor] Alison [Mitchell]. We were all over it, and then in the middle of it, [deputy managing editor] Rebecca Blumenstein sent an email—but we were already messing with it —saying, “You should know, there’s a social media firestorm over the headline.” My reaction [inaudible] was not polite. My reaction was to essentially say, “Fuck ’em, we’re already working on it.” And we were working on it, on deadline. We had already lost half of the papers, and it was too late to redraw the whole page. We would’ve lost the whole thing.
Baquet: Can I just say one thing? This is a hard story. This is larger than the headline. This is larger than the other stuff. This is a really hard story. This is a story that’s going to call on like all of our muscles, all of our resources, all of our creativity, all of our empathy. Including all of our empathy for each other. It’s going to call on us to be maybe a little less harsh with each other, because we’re gonna make other mistakes. It’s going to call on us to listen to each other more, including me listening to you all more. If you ask me how we end up getting through this with the best coverage, it’s by having honest conversations. It’s by inviting people into the Trump story who ordinarily might not have played on stories like this and making sure they get to participate in the coverage. But I hope this is a start, and I hope people take me at my word when I say you may come into me and tell me something you don’t like. I may not agree with you. I will be direct, and I will say I don’t agree with you. But I promise you I will listen and I promise you that in the end all of this influences the coverage. So thank you. Thank you.