May 1, 2017

Gray Lady courts Trump Country

Mike Allen, author of AM

Michael Snyder / AP

President Trump got a 100-day gift yesterday from the paper he had called "totally failing" at a rally the night before: The New York Times' Sunday Review began a campaign to get readers to "Say Something Nice About Donald Trump," and a cover story of the section respectfully channeled the Steve Bannon world view.

  • What's going on here: Neither of the pieces was sarcastic. Both are part of the paper's effort to be more relevant in the Trump era. The paper's digital subscribers notably under-index in the heartland, a potential area of growth. Bret Stephens, a conservative columnist hired from the Wall Street Journal, debuted in Saturday's paper, calling for more balance in the climate-change debate.
  • Editorial Page Editor James Bennet tells me in an email these are "a convergence of efforts that have been underway for some time to open up our range."

In Sunday's paper:

  • Michael Kinsley, the leading liberal, wrote an opinion piece, "The Upside to the Presidential Twitter Feed," praising Trump for composing tweets himself, and making "social media almost a part of our constitutional system": "[T]he average citizen now has a view straight into the president's id."
  • But the surprising part was the last graf: "So that's one good thing he has done for the country. Can you think of another? Please let me know at somethingnice@nytimes.com. We'll be revisiting this theme regularly in Sunday Review."
  • Bennet tells me: "The say-something-nice feature was Mike's great idea, and it is sincere! If also arch, in the high Kinsley style."
  • On the section's cover, in a piece called "The New Party of 'America First,'" theologian R.R. Reno, editor of the journal First Things, writes: "Mr. Trump's shocking success at the polls has done our country a service. Scholars may tut-tut about the historical connotations of 'America First,' but the basic sentiment needs to be endorsed. Our country has dissolved to a far greater degree than those cloistered on the coasts allow themselves to realize."

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