At the South by Southwest Interactive festival this weekend, New York Times editor Dean Baquet offered a somewhat surprising take on President Trump’s relationship with his paper. According to Baquet, Trump actually loves the NY Times and just wishes the paper would love him back. From Politico:
“I think he wants our favor, but when he can’t have it, he gets hugely angry. I think The New York Times …. historically sets a certain kind of agenda. But I also think he’s a New York guy, and The New York Times means a lot to him,” Baquet said at the Austin Convention Center Sunday morning, part of a South by Southwest Interactive event cheekily titled “Covering POTUS: A Conversation with the Failing NYT.”
Baquet got some support for his view from David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post. Politico reports Fahrenthold said, “Trump isn’t at war with the media. He is a creature of the media.” He continued, “He’s more dependent on the media than anyone you’ve ever met. He hates us because he needs us so much.”
There was a dissenting voice at the event, however. Nick Denton, formerly of Gawker media, argued that the media was now effectively the opposition party. “The fact is, most of the liberal media is working to halt Trump,” Denton said according to Politico. “They’re getting leaks from sympathetic bureaucrats in the federal bureaucracy, and they are acting as the opposition to Trump, and I don’t think there are many people in the middle who are looking to bridge those divides,” he continued.
In this case, I would argue both Baquet and Denton are correct. Most of the media is not only going after Trump out of obligation, there is an eagerness to it which has led to many instances of sloppy reporting. Just today, the Washington Post published a story describing vandalism at Trump’s Los Angeles golf course as a “daring act of defiance.” They later corrected it but the paper has already betrayed a rooting interest.
On the other hand, there’s something to what Baquet is saying as well. From his fixation on the polls during the primaries to now, Trump clearly loves positive media when he can get it. Trump handles the media a lot like he handled his primary opponents. Anyone who takes a swing at him gets a derisive nickname and a sharp response to go with it. But those who refused to take shots, like Dr. Ben Carson and Chris Christie, wind up being brought in.
There’s no way to tell because it will never happen, but I suspect if the NY Times put out a series of page 1 positive stories about Trump, his previous attacks on the paper would be quickly forgotten.