‘NY Times’ editor: Support for major newspapers grows despite Trump attacks

Despite President Donald Trump’s persistent attacks on the news media, support for The New York Times and some of the nation’s other major newspapers has grown stronger since Trump’s election last fall, Executive Editor Dean Baquet said today in a lunchtime speech at the WRKF Annual Founders Luncheon.

The Times currently boasts some 3.3 million paid subscribers across multiple platforms—“far more than would have been imaginable in the print era,” said Baquet, attributing the rise in readership to a demand for information about the fundamental and profound changes Trump is making in Washington and on the world stage.

“What our readers want is muscular and fair coverage of the transformation in Washington and the changes it will cause,” he said.

Baquet, a New Orleans native who got his start at the now defunct States-Item in the early 1980s, said in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s election last fall that he received personal and “nasty” emails from both liberals and conservatives. Those on the left blamed the news organization for enabling Trump to win by giving him so much coverage. Those on the right chided the publication for misjudging the mood of the electorate.

But the tenor of the emails changed when, later that week, Trump tweeted, falsely, that The New York Times’ business was failing and that the publicly traded company had massive debt.

“Within days our subscription numbers began to increase and we aren’t the only ones to see such huge support.”

Baquet said the best ways to rebut the attacks on journalism is “with more journalism and better journalism.”

While Baquet said the future is bright for strong, well-funded national newspapers like The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, he warned that local newspapers face a dire future. “There will be an unimaginable upheaval in journalism in the next five years,” he said. “Many, many newspapers won’t survive.”

That has dire consequences for communities across the country that rely on local newspapers to serve as witnesses to local governments.  

Baquet predicted the local newspapers that survive will be those exhibiting courage, remain relevant and engage in investigative journalism and community service.

He also encouraged the audience to continue to support its local daily newspaper despite changes that have occurred over the years.

“Stop fretting over the changes,” he said. “They’re inevitable.”

—Stephanie Riegel

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