- The Washington Times - Friday, August 16, 2019

The social-media firestorm following the New York Times’ “Trump urges unity vs. racism” headline was so fierce that executive editor Dean Baquet led a staff huddle on the topic. 

Slate received a transcript of the Monday meeting, which lasted 75 minutes.

Mr. Baquet also covered the demotion of Jonathan Weisman, the deputy Washington editor, whose social-media behavior prompted the move.

“It was a f—ing mess — we were all over the headline,” Mr. Baquet said of the Trump headline in the wake of recent mass shootings, Slate reported Thursday. “My reaction [to online outrage] was to essentially say, ‘F— ‘em, we’re already working on it.’ And we were working on it, on deadline.”

The editor said that it was difficult to operate in the modern age because an inordinate amount of readers don’t want real journalism.

“They sometimes want us to pretend that [Trump] 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. […] 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?”

Mr. Baquet then singled out rabid readers on social-media platforms.

“Being independent also means not editing the New York Times for Twitter, which can be unforgiving and toxic,” he said. “My own view? You quote the remarks [of public officials]. I’m not saying we would never use the word racist. I’m talking about that weekend. You quote the remarks.”

He added that he didn’t want to find himself in the “uncomfortable position” of deciding each day which individuals should be deemed a racist or a liar.

“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.”

Cliff Levy, associate managing editor and Metro editor, added that readers often “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.”

The headline in question was changed to “Trump assailing hate but not guns” for the print edition. 

“Trump Condemns White Supremacy but Stops Short of Major Gun Controls” is the headline for the newspaper’s online version of the story.

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