'Failing New York Times' Editor Psychoanalyzes Trump, Grades WaPo Slogan at SXSW

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Dean Baquet.
Dean Baquet. Credit: The New York Times

Asked why President Trump focuses so much criticism on The New York Times -- "the failing @nytimes" as Mr. Trump put it in a January tweet -- Executive Editor Dean Baquet offered a theory at SXSW on Sunday.

"It's always tricky psychoanalyzing people but I'll do it anyway," Mr. Baquet said. "I think that Donald Trump is a guy whose family made its fortune in Queens, which in the anthropology and genealogy of New York is an outer borough."

Mr. Trump wanted to conquer the elite of New York, Mr. Baquet said. "I think in his mind The New York Times represents for better or for worse some of the elite for New York."

Along with the Washington Post, The Times also helps set the agenda, Mr. Baquet added. Both papers have seen new subscribers since Mr. Trump's surprising win on Nov. 8, and subsequently adopted slogans playing up the importance of journalism. The Times ran a commercial during last month's Academy Awards arguing that "The truth is more important now than ever." The Post has been running "Democracy Dies in Darkness" underneath its logo.

When an audience member asked which slogan was better, Mr. Baquet wasn't precious, despite his friendship with the Washington Post's editor. "I love our competition with the Washington Post," he said. "I think it's great. But I think their slogan -- Marty Baron please forgive me for saying this -- sounds like the next Batman movie."

Mr. Trump's labeling the press "the enemy of the American people" was "jarring" and "outrageous," Mr. Baquet said, but did not influence the paper's coverage of him. "Our job is not to be the opposition to Donald Trump, it's to cover the hell out of Donald Trump."

In any event, the next two years should be momentous ones for the press, Mr. Baquet said, citing the harsh economic realities of the news business, a new president that regularly makes the press itself the story and a riveting amount of disruption in Washington.

In some ways the election-night surprise has given newspapers a clarity that had been lost as competition from digital media rose around them, he said. "I just levitated," he recalled, "because I thought it is just so clear what my life is going to be like for the next two or three years."

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