It is exceedingly rare for the editor of a major newspaper to write news stories in his or her publication. Given strategic considerations, the endless crush of digital publishing, and the management of hundreds of journalists in their newsrooms, editors typically have plenty of other things to do with their time. New York Times editor Dean Baquet, for instance, has published exactly one piece not directly related to his stewardship of the paper since he took over in 2014.
Yet Wall Street Journal honcho Gerard Baker inexplicably came out of the woodwork Tuesday to write a bland preview of the World Economic Forum that praised President Donald Trump for meeting minimal requirements in protecting American interests abroad. Appearing in the news section of the Rupert Murdoch-owned paper, the piece would seem to fit a pattern in which the Journal pulls some punches against Trump, if not outright striving to protect him.
It’s not unheard of for an editor to write columns drawing from their well of journalistic experience. The last non-Journal-related articles I found in the archives solely by Baker were a January 2017 column about Davos and a June 2016 analysis of Brexit. (The Journal publishes a daily newsletter under Baker’s byline, the 10-Point, though he has a legman/woman doing what appears to be much of the grunt work. It also runs writeups of chats he sometimes does with other boldfaced names, though these are typically published as either transcripts or as articles written by other reporters.)
But Tuesday’s piece, based off Baker’s sitdown with Klaus Schwab, chair of the international gathering in Davos, Switzerland, is a who-what-when recollection of a single interview. The lede:
President Donald Trump has had a rough first year in office but has made important diplomatic progress with China and other key countries toward resolving some of the biggest sources of international tension, according to the head of the World Economic Forum.
It’s the sort of straightforward article one of the Journal’s talented interns could have written, helping them land a solid byline in the process. Yet Baker’s byline adds a certain heft to the portrayal of Schwab’s words as something of an endorsement of Trump’s trade policies. Here’s Schwab’s first quote pulled for the text piece:
Of course the first year has been rough. But on the other hand, look at the relationship with China, look at even the relationship with other countries…I mean there was not the confrontation which was the fear of many people in the world.
At least Trump hasn’t started a trade war! The article does feature some gentle criticism from Schwab:
I think we have to get accustomed (to the fact) that we do not have any more shared values…which characterized the world since…the end of the Cold War. And here to see that the leader of this world…is not exercising anymore leadership which is expected: that’s worrisome.
Or, as the Journal’s headline puts it: Progress!
Whatever the motivation behind the Baker byline, it will do little to quell the perception that the newspaper he runs goes out of its way to say nice things about Trump.
Correction: The headline and body of this article originally said the column was Baker’s first since 2016. In fact, it was his first since January 2017.