In an interview Thursday at a Financial Times event on the future of media, New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet said he agreed with the direction of the paper’s much-criticized opinion section.
Times Editorial Page Editor James Bennet, who reports to publisher A.G. Sulzberger rather than Baquet, has made it his public mission to expand the intellectual diversity of the Times’ opinion pages. But that effort has most notably veered toward ham-fisted trolling and a parade of never-Trump conservative voices with an outsize focus on campus protest and what they see as the excesses of liberalism that supposedly heralded Trump’s ascension. Shorter shrift has been given to both the left and pro-Trump right, and the opinion staff continues to display a woeful lack of racial diversity. Bennet has in turn drawn furious criticism, including from inside the newsroom.
But Baquet is standing by his colleague.
Baquet also gave a vote of confidence Thursday to Bret Stephens, perhaps the most controversial of the Times’ new crop of conservative commentators. Last April, Stephens used his inaugural column to question scientific predictions of the effects of climate change, a topic that Times reporters have covered extensively. Several newsroom staffers subtweeted Stephens at the time for muddying the waters. Baquet, however, said he thought Stephens was getting a raw deal.
Subsequent keynote interviews throughout Thursday’s event include CNN President Jeff Zucker and former Breitbart chairman and top White House aide Steve Bannon. In an email to Splinter last week, Baquet said he had no problem appearing in an event alongside a racist who has worked to delegitimize media outlets, particularly the Times.
“It sort of feels sort of ‘unjournalistic,’ if that is a word, to refuse to participate in a forum because Bannon or someone else will be in the same event,” Baquet wrote. “I’d argue that this is an important moment in American journalism, and it would be good for people to hear that.”
Isaac Lee, chief content officer for Splinter’s parent company Univison, is also speaking at the event.