Dear Dean Baquet:
President Trump has embraced whole hog that favorite American pastime of blaming the media. He says “the media elites” are biased and dishonest. He says he will handpick the reporters who get the privilege of closer access to the White House.
The editors and reporters at The New York Times are very smart, dedicated people. Perhaps they don’t need any advice. I am going to offer some anyway.
Don’t play by his rules. Trump likes to flood the field with lies, and part of his long game is to discredit all the bastions of truth and credibility. Teachers, scientists and journalists and writers will be in his crosshairs. Keep fairly, accurately, thoroughly – and aggressively – covering his administration. Avoid sloppy work, fact errors and gotcha zingers. Develop sources, but avoid an overreliance on unnamed sources. The Trump White House is not going to be one big happy camp. Egos are gonna clash, and things, I suspect, are gonna get nasty internally. People are going grouse. Your reporters will have to sift out all the motives and agendas, of course. Also, follow the cash piles and the public documents, and put things in perspective.
Dig, dig, dig. It’s a huge potato mound. It is your duty to uncover the tubers. You will face immense pushback from the apex of power. But you have been here before, and you stuck to your guns. Because you did, the United States is a better place.
Don’t hang on every Trump tweet. Don’t accept that the tweets have deeper meanings, or that they are actually even flowing from Trump’s brain to his fingertips. Trump’s tweets are distractions – 140-character bursts of propaganda that mostly serve as fodder for his most fervent followers.
Having said that, I do wish someone would really get after the Trump the Tweeter story. I would like to know who is actually tweeting. Is it really always Trump? I suspect that the tweets are more the handiwork of Trump’s handlers, including Steve Bannon. If so, we need to know.
That’s all, for now. Thanks. Now, get to digging.