What Was the New York Times Thinking?

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The New York Times, in its apparent never-ending quest to beat both sides-ism to death, published the following front-page headline in the first edition of its Tuesday paper: “TRUMP URGES UNITY VS. RACISM.”


Apparently, the alleged Paper of Record was under the impression that Donald Trump’s half-hearted sham speech in the wake of two mass shootings was a real guiding light in America’s fight against white supremacy, despite the fact that white supremacy’s been the cornerstone of his presidency since he rode down a golden escalator and called Mexicans rapists and criminals.

Here it is:

Headlines are hard, sure, but this one—on the front page! Right up there!—is really an incredible, credulous read of Trump’s hollow Teleprompter recitation, one in which he didn’t denounce racism so much as intone miserably that racism could be bad, maybe, if it hadn’t voted him into office. Trump’s rhetoric and embrace of white supremacy has emboldened some of these mass shooters and aspiring bombers. The New York Times knows this.

And yet:

The headline was so egregious, it prompted rightful outrage from Democratic presidential hopefuls like Beto O’Rourke and Bill de Blasio, along with quite a few “CANCEL MY SUBSCRIPTIONS” (though not from the candidates, of course). New York Times op-ed writer Wajahat Ali even tweeted, “I write for the NYT. This is a terrible headline.”

Anyway, they changed it—though not to something particularly better:


It’s not clear whether the Times realized they’d let a bunch of bullshit crawl across their front page when the internet outrage hit, or made the tweak for cosmetic reasons. According to one of their own articles describing the headlining process, there are occasionally headline changes between editions, but those are minor:

“It’s just a chance to go back and refine it; a change in a headline isn’t an acknowledgment that there was something wrong with the previous head,” said Jill Taylor, who manages The Times’s copy desks. “Whether it’s better wordplay, or emphasizing a different angle, or something that fits the space better or breaks more elegantly, there’s any number of reasons.”


I guess here the Times did try a different angle, one not quite lifted right from Trump’s Telepropaganda machine, and one that at least vaguely borders on factually correct, though I’m not sure Trump did much “assailing” hate in his speech so much as flatly suggest it could possibly be bad, though if it donated to his re-election campaign, he’s pretty cool with it. Perhaps a third last-minute change is the charm?

Update, 11:40 a.m. ET: New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet told the Daily Beast that he agreed with the critics of the paper’s first headline. “It was written on deadline and when it was passed along for approval we all saw it was a bad headline and changed it pretty quickly,” he said.