The New York Times’ executive editor said that his newspaper — and “media powerhouses” across the nation — “do not understand what motivates devoutly religious Americans.”
Dean Baquet sat down Thursday with NPR for an extended interview on the media landscape following Donald Trump’s presidential election win on Nov. 8. Host Terry Gross essentially engaged in an after-action review in terms of what media outlets can learn from the election cycle.
When Mr. Baquet was asked whether he is “wrestling” with how to cover President-elect Trump, he used the question to pivot to ways to reach religious readers.
“I want to make sure that we are much more creative about beats out in the country so that we understand that anger and disconnectedness that people feel,” Mr. Baquet said. “And I think I use religion as an example because I was raised Catholic in New Orleans. I think that the New York-based and Washington-based too probably, media powerhouses don’t quite get religion. We have a fabulous religion writer, but she’s all alone. We don’t get religion. We don’t get the role of religion in people’s lives. And I think we can do much, much better. And I think there are things that we can be more creative about to understand the country.”
Mr. Baquet’s comments dovetailed with sentiments shared earlier in the week by Fox News star Megyn Kelly, who told Ms. Gross Wednesday that America was in a “dangerous” place because too many citizens do not trust the media.
Mr. Baquet said it’s now his duty to determine the reason for such a disconnect.
“I now have two big jobs,” he said. “Big job one is to cover the most compelling and unusual president we have had in my lifetime. Big job two is to really understand and explain the forces in America that led to Americans wanting a change so much that they were willing to select such a different figure for the White House. Those are my two big jobs.”
Ms. Gross also asked about The Times’ position on covering the “alt-right” movement, specifically the newspaper’s decision to brand it “a racist, far-right fringe movement that embraces an ideology of white nationalism and is anti-immigrant anti-Semitic and anti-feminist.”
“I think it’s appropriate to use the term alt-right even though, of course, the term was a construct to not say what they were is because it’s — it is now become a recognized part of the lexicon,” the executive editor said. “It’s now a phrase people know that it’s a shorthand for. But I think as long — I think what that memo from our standards editor says is as long as you include in it what it really means, that’s fine.
“My job — before we wanted to call anything anything, we had reporters look at the writings read, you know, some of the traffic to Breitbart, just look at the whole world of the alt-right before we came up with that conclusion,” he said.