Tag Archives: New York Times

The legend of the New York Times and the Bay of Pigs

At Cuba's Bay of Pigs Museum. Photo (cc) by Lens Envy.

At Cuba’s Bay of Pigs Museum. Photo (cc) 2014 by Lens Envy.

The 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion—a failed US-backed attempt by Cuban exiles to overthrow Fidel Castro—is often cited as an example of how the New York Timesshamefully flinched in the face of pressure from the White House, thus helping to enable a foreign-policy catastrophe.

If only the Times had revealed everything it knew beforehand, so this line of reasoning goes, the Kennedy administration might have backed down from its disastrous scheme. President John F. Kennedy himself contributed to the legend, telling the Times’s managing editor, Turner Catledge, some months later: “If you had printed more about the operation you would have saved us from a colossal mistake.”

The problem with this narrative is that it’s not true—not exactly, anyway. Though the Times did withhold a couple of key details, on April 7 of that year it published a front-page story, above the fold, reporting that US-trained rebels were prepared to invade Cuba, and that the operation could begin at any time. Ten days later, the anti-Castro forces were routed on the beach.

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Times senior editor exults over Trump-driven traffic

I’m late with this, but I thought you’d like to see this internal memo a source sent me about folks at the New York Times exulting about how much traffic the paper received as a result of Donald Trump’s bizarre interview.

The Times did a good job, but I’m a little perplexed by the self-congratulatory tone of senior editor Steve Kenny’s note. Trump showed up at the offices of our leading newspaper and made news. We get it.

Subject:Late note for Tuesday, Nov. 22

Good morning, all:

What a day for news. What a day to be a Timeswoman or a Timesman.

Donald Trump’s visit to the building dominated not only our news day, but the days of every news organization in America. (The lead photo on The Washington Post’s homepage at the moment is a picture of Trump in OUR lobby.)

Starting with the off-again-on-again drama of the meeting itself ‪on Tuesday morning and continuing to our posting of the full transcript early ‪Wednesday morning, the interview drove hundreds of thousands of readers to our site.

Here are some numbers:

— The lede-all by Mike Shear, Maggie Haberman and Julie Davis — 1.2 million page views

— The Hillary Clinton prosecution story by Mike and Julie — 727,000 page views

— Jonah Bromwich’s “The Interview as Told in 12 Tweets” — 232,000 page views.

— The “Fall of Chris Christie” story by Kate Zernike — 520,00 page views. (O.K. — not related to the interview, but really big numbes.)

The interview transcript was compiled by Liam Stack, Jonah Engel Bromwich, Karen Workman and Tim Herrera. Zach Johnk of the FoNa Copy Desk was here until almost ‪1 a.m. copy editing — all 11,810 words of it. We published when he was finished, and Laurie Kawakami gave it an all-out social push.

Laurie’s effort paid off. The transcript is No. 2 on the homepage, and Stela tells me that almost 60 percent of readers are coming to it through social media. Samantha Henig sent in a note earlier in the evening that there is a plan Wednesday to post audio of the meeting, and we’ll send out an alert as well in the morning to direct readers to the transcript.

The transcript has already scored 52,000 page views, and it didn’t go up until almost ‪1 a.m.

About ‪1:15 a.m., the Post and Courier in South Carolina reported that Trump would announce Nikki Haley as his choice for U.N. ambassador. About 45 minutes later, The Post put up its own story (with its own confirmation) and alerted. At that hour, understandably, I couldn’t raise anyone, and it didn’t seem to be the sort of story to call out the troops.

I put together a 550-word piece that sourced the P&C and the Post, with lots of background from our own reporting about the furious back-and-forth Trump and Haley had during the primaries. (She supported Rubio and was outspoken in her criticism of Trump.) But in the end, I didn’t feel comfortable posting a story without independent confirmation, so we didn’t put it up. It’s slugged 24HALEY in Copy, in case any of it can be of any use early today.

The big news if we do confirm it is that she has no foreign policy experience.

Elsewhere on the homepage, Tony Scott’s review of the new Brad Pitt movie, “Allied,” is and has been the top performer, and Valeriya Safronova’s “Night Out” with Lauren Graham, the “Gilmore Girls” star, has been a favorite.

Readers seem to be hungry for something a little lighter, and we have some choice bits planned for them in the Running Story List, found here.

Among major competitors, The Post, The Journal, the BBC, and CNN are all leading with our Trump interview, although their focuses vary. The Post is concentrating on his pulling back on some campaign promises, The Journal on his “no conflict of interest” comments, the BBC and CNN with the “alt-right.” The Guardian’s lead is about what it says is a growing coalition of liberal groups urging Hillary Clinton to call for recounts in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Also of note: The BBC has an interesting story about the immediate and growing backlash among the far right after our interview was published. The Post is off-leading with Nikki Haley.

Steve Kenny
Senior Editor/News Desk
The New York Times

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Trump to Times: Eh, I didn’t mean any of it

Climate change? Never mind. Lock her up? Didn’t mean it. Torture? I don’t think that anymore.

The big takeaway from Donald Trump’s interview with the New York Times was how casually he walked away from some of the most caustic things he said during the campaign. If there’s a more striking example of a politician admitting that he essentially lied about everything to get elected, I’m not aware of it.

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Public television journalist Gwen Ifill dies at 61

Gwen Ifill at a book-signing in Seattle. Photo (cc) by KCTS 9 Public Television.

Gwen Ifill at a book-signing in Seattle. Photo (cc) by KCTS 9 Public Television.

I’m very sad to learn that Gwen Ifill has died. Co-anchor of the PBS NewsHour and host of Washington Week, she was conspicuous by her absence during the final run-up to the presidential election.

I remember reading seeing her byline in the New York Times back in the 1990s. But I didn’t realize that she had a local connection until I looked up her bio: She was a graduate of Simmons College and had worked for the Boston Herald American.

Her humane voice will be missed in the strange days to come.

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The Times’s weirdly Putin-free first take on the NBC forum

Illustration (cc) by Michail Kirkov.

Illustration (cc) by Michail Kirkov.

Here we go again. A week after the New York Times completely rewrote a story that initially portrayed Donald Trump’s trip to Mexico and subsequent hate-rally speech on immigration as a turn toward a softer, more statesmanlike candidate, the paper’s lead story omitted the biggest news coming out of Wednesday night’s NBC News “Commander-in-Chief” forum.

The story, like last week’s, was by Patrick Healy. And it contained not a single mention of Vladimir Putin, whom Trump praised fulsomely—even suggesting that he was a more impressive leader than President Obama. Here is the original article, posted on Wednesday night.

By this morning, Healy’s story had been updated to include a mention of Putin—in the fifth paragraph. Meanwhile, the Washington Post‘s three-reporter effort led with this:

Donald Trump defended his admiration for Russian President Vladi­mir Putin at a forum here Wednesday focused on national security issues, even suggesting that Putin is more worthy of his praise than President Obama.

That’s known as finding the lede and running with it. (Although I didn’t save the Post‘s first take on Wednesday night, I know it mentioned Putin prominently.) By the way, the Post also led the print edition with that story, under the headline “Trump Defends Praise for Putin.” The Times: “Candidates Flex Muscles During TV Forum.”

The forum itself was inexpertly moderated by Matt Lauer, who grilled Hillary Clinton with predictable questions about her damn emails while repeatedly letting Trump off the hook. Clinton, speaking first, pointed out that Trump has lied repeatedly about his initial support for the war in Iraq. Good thing—because when Trump lied again, Lauer sat there and said nothing.

As Dylan Byers writes at CNN.com:

Perhaps most notable were the questions Lauer did not ask of Trump. At an event geared toward national security and military veterans, the NBC co-host failed to ask a single question about Trump’s controversial remarks about Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan, Sen. John McCain’s prisoner-of-war status or his deferments from the Vietnam War, among other issues.

All of this comes, of course, as a host of media and political observers are beginning to take loud notice—see my commentary earlier this week for WGBHNews.org—that the political press is pummeling Clinton while holding Trump to a much lower standard.

By the way (to return to the beginning), Times public editor Liz Splayd explained her paper’s Mexican misadventure by saying that Healy got caught up with deadline problems—the tone of the day changed significantly once Trump begin his ugly speech in Phoenix. OK. But again, the Post set the right tone in its very first take. It’s fair to ask what is going on at the Times.

Update: To be fair, a sidebar in the Times published Wednesday night made mention of Putin. And I’m told by Harvard’s Christina Pazzanese, though I didn’t see it, that Times reporter Alexander Burns had an even earlier take than Healy’s that did mention Putin. But my point stands. Anyone checking the Times‘s website or apps late Wednesday night would have seen Healy’s story as the big takeout—and there was no mention of Putin.

Update II: The Burns story has been disappeared from the Times website, but Susan Ryan-Vollmar found this.

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Dueling media columnists bolster Times-Post rivalry

The late David Carr

The late New York Times media columnist David Carr. Photo (cc) by wiobyrne.

Previously published at WGBHNews.org.

One of the last great newspaper rivalries got a boost on Monday with the debut of Margaret Sullivan’s media column in the Washington Post. Sullivan’s first piece was more a preview of coming attractions than an attempt to dig deep. But with Jim Rutenberg having replaced the late, great David Carr at the New York Times earlier this year, our two leading general-interest newspapers now have dueling media critics for the first time in ages.

Sullivan, a former editor of the Buffalo News, joins a team of experienced media observers at the Post, including reporter Paul Farhi and blogger Erik Wemple. She is the Post’s first media columnist since Howard Kurtz, who left in 2010 for the Daily Beast. (Kurtz was also the host of CNN’s Reliable Sources. He moved to Fox News in 2013 following some well-publicized problems at both the Beast and CNN.)

The Post’s hiring of Sullivan shows just how small the world of elite media can be, given that she was recruited while serving as the Times’s public editor, as the paper calls its ombudsman. Sullivan was the fifth and, to my eyes, the best. As Michael Calderone of the Huffington Post put it, Sullivan “radically updated the role for the digital age by quickly addressing Times-related controversies and debates in real time and actively engaging on social media.” Sullivan will be replaced by Elizabeth Spayd, currently the editor-in-chief and publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review and previously (yes, you guessed it) an editor at the Washington Post.

Needless to say, it will be interesting to see whether and how Sullivan chooses to write about the Times. In a recent interview with public radio’s On the Media, she praised her former employer—but also expressed frustration over an institutional attitude of “when the Times decides to cover it, then it becomes news” as well as bemusement over its oft-mocked trend stories. Indeed, Sullivan started something she called the “Monocle Meter” after the Times ran a story about the supposed resurgence of monocles in Brooklyn—a resurgence that apparently came and went without anyone actually ever having been spotted wearing a monocle.

Rutenberg, a veteran political reporter, got into a spat recently when he wrote that not only did journalists in general miss the rise of Donald Trump, but so did data journalists like Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, whose empirically based methodology should in theory produce more accurate results. In a two-fer of Times-Post incestuousness, Rutenberg invoked an observation by the Post’s Farhi that “nothing exceeds the value of shoe-leather reporting” in criticizing Silver, who moved his site from the Times to ESPN after the 2012 presidential election.

Silver, never one to suffer in silence, ripped into Rutenberg on a FiveThirtyEight podcast. As Bill Wyman wrote for the Columbia Journalism Review, Silver called Rutenberg’s column “dishonest” and “unethical,” and rehashed some old grievances over the way he was treated at the Times by Rutenberg and others, saying they were “incredibly hostile and incredibly unhelpful.” Silver later subtweeted Rutenberg with a lengthy article in which he argued that he got Trump wrong not because of an overreliance on data but because his predictions that Trump would fade weren’t based on any data at all. “In other words,” Silver wrote, “we were basically acting like pundits.”

The rivalry between the Times and the Post has a long, colorful history As recounted in Chalmers Roberts’s 1977 book The Washington Post: The First 100 Years, when the Times published a condescending item in 1900 about longing for “the rudeness of New York” after spending some time in “amiable and inefficient Washington,” the Post replied: “No doubt. The pig returns to his wallow.”

After years of striving, the Post emerged on an equal footing with the Times over the constitutional crisis sparked by the publication of the Pentagon Papers. The Post captured the public’s imagination in a way the Times never had during and after the Watergate scandal. How could the Gray Lady possibly compete with a newspaper whose journalists were portrayed by movie stars like Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, and Jason Robards?

But the technological and cultural forces that have brought the newspaper business to its knees did considerably more damage to the Post than to the Times—that is, until Amazon’s Jeff Bezos bought the Post in 2013 and added about 100 journalists to its newsroom in a bid to transform the Post into a national digital newspaper.

Now, once again, the Post and the Times are genuine rivals. The Post’s executive editor, Marty Baron, and the Times’s, Dean Baquet, are longtime friends and competitors. Bezos said in a television interview that his goal was for the Post to become “the new paper of record,” a clear reference to the Times—and the Post took it a step further than even Bezos had by putting together an ad proclaiming itself already to be “America’s New Publication of Record.” The Post also moved ahead of the Times in online readership, despite having a newsroom staff about half the size.

It is into this ancient conflict—once heated, then dormant, and now heating up again—that Margaret Sullivan and Jim Rutenberg have now been enlisted. This is going to be fun.

Iran, nukes, and fear: A potent op-ed combo platter

Compare and contrast. In the New York Times, Senator Ted Cruz whips up the fear regarding the nuclear deal between the United States and Iran:

The mullahs’ policy is, by their own admission, unchanged. It is the same one that inspired the so-called revolutionaries of 1979 to take 52 Americans as hostages for 444 days, and motivated murderous attacks on Israelis and Americans from Buenos Aires to Beirut to Baghdad over the subsequent decades. The only thing that is changing now is the potential scale of this violence, as they seek to replace truck bombs and roadside explosive devices with the most destructive weapons on the planet and the means to deliver them.

In the Boston Globe, Stephen Kinzer writes that what hardliners in both countries really fear is that the nuclear deal might actually work:

Extremists in the United States and Iran have joined to derail this 10-month-old deal. They share a horror scenario: an Iran that is successfully integrated into the Middle East and the wider world, increasingly free at home and responsible in its neighborhood. Militants in Washington fear that this would give Iran a regional role commensurate with its history, size, and power, while they wish to see it tied down forever. Militants in Tehran fear that cooperating with the outside world will erode their authority and possibly lead to collapse of the Islamic Republic. These are reasonable fears.