I emailed the White House a question this week: “Could you please clarify for me what President Trump means when he says ‘the failing New York Times’? Does he mean that the Times is failing financially? That it is failing its readers? That it is failing in some other way(s)? Thank you for helping me clear this up.”
The White House failed to answer, though its press room told me the only way to submit questions is by email: to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A bit of background: Since Trump took office, he has lost fights with owners of at least three buildings who went to court to take his name off them. Revenue from all major Trump-branded businesses in and around New York City has declined.
However, The New York Times added 157,000 online subscribers in the 4th financial quarter of 2017. It exceeded $1 billion in revenue from online subscriptions for the first time ever. In that quarter the Times earned 60 percent of its revenue from subscriptions: a remarkable statistic, as before the internet devastated U.S. newspapers, daily papers earned only about 10 percent of their revenue from subscriptions: 90 percent of it came from classified and display ads. But the Times survived.
To see how badly it’s failing us, I bought a copy of Times’ national print edition on Tuesday, Sept. 11, and counted the stories, bylines, datelines and sources in its A Section. In those 16 pages (Editorial and Op-Ed pages excluded) the Times delivered 29 stories, with 36 bylines from 14 cities around the world, eight of them overseas, plus New York, Miami, Washington, Atlanta, Dallas, and Talent, Oregon.
In those 29 stories, the Times cited 188 sources:
Eighty were government officials: 62 from the United States; 18 from foreign governments;
18 sources were U.S. political candidates or their top aides;
22 citations came from respected nongovernmental institutions affiliated with top universities or, for example, the United Nations
23 sources were college professors or professional teachers
26 were common citizens, from 11 countries
15 were experts from recognized institutions (this include attorneys)
3 were religious figures
1 was a business figure (in its Business section that day, the Times brought us 10 stories, with 14 bylines from 5 cities. Forty-eight experts were quoted; I did not count the government figures and institutions; nor the 2 pages of tables, graphs and statistics.)
The Times used no anonymous sources.
Also in the A Section were seven corrections: six for misspellings, photo caption IDs and grammatical sins; one was a clarification: all Executive Branch employees, not just those in the Justice Department, must submit documentation for foreign travel.
I’d call that a decent report on a slow news day, and a fair corrections policy. I’d call it accurate reporting. After all, Trump’s Executive Branch employs at least 80 times more people than The New York Times does in its newsroom; and latest counts show that Trump, all alone, has told seven lies a day since he’s been in office, and hasn’t corrected a one.
Then Thursday, as a major hurricane approached the East Coast, Trump, with his usual sensitivity, claimed that 3,000 people did not die in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria in the past year, but only “6 to 18” did, until he left the island, throwing ersatz toilet paper about, in his “incredibly successful” rescue mission, and that the rest of the deaths were cooked up by “the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible.” And he gratuitously insulted the “incompetent” mayor of San Juan, again, for being … umm … there, I guess.
For the record: San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz is not only a Democrat, she is — some people will stop at nothing — a woman.
Trump’s sources for this: Zero.
I have one more question for a president who lies as he breathes; hides financial deals with the Russian mob; slimes his own attorney general, Department of Justice, the FBI and our closest allies, and demeans and threatens their presidents; who rules by insult, threat and intimidation — even of the people he appointed to his own Cabinet; who insults his attorney general for prosecuting corrupt Republican congressmen because it might hurt their re-election campaigns, which would threaten Trump’s hold on Congress — and his shaky immunity from prosecution; whose baseless attacks on fundamental U.S. institutions stem from unsubstantiated, unsourced, or ill-sourced “reports” scraped from neo-Nazi websites; who is such a weak, abusive and dishonest quasi-man that he had to pay $130,000 to get laid one time:
Who is failing whom, Mr. President?
And since you won’t answer that one either, through your press office, here’s one more for you, Sir: Have you noticed yet that the state of the world — nuclear war, mass starvation, environmental destruction of the planet — is not really all about you — but that there are other people involved?