Why Trump attacks the New York Times as 'failing' when it's not

On Tuesday, President Donald J. Trump congratulated Arthur G. Sulzberger on his new position as the publisher of the New York Times. But in the same message, conveyed in two tweets, Trump first insulted the publication as “failing,” then told Sulzberger to get “more impartial” reporters and to stop using “phony sources.”

It was the latest development in a decades-long saga between the president and his hometown newspaper. In that time, the New York Times has developed an oddly symbiotic relationship with the current president.  

The Times has benefited from the rise of Trump, even as he attacks it because he believes that the publication provides an inadequate news service and is struggling financially.

Donald J. Trump on Twitter

The Failing New York Times has a new publisher, A.G. Sulzberger. Congratulations! Here is a last chance for the Times to fulfill the vision of its Founder, Adolph Ochs, “to give the news impartially, without fear or FAVOR, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved.” Get…

Donald J. Trump on Twitter

impartial journalists of a much higher standard, lose all of your phony and non-existent “sources,” and treat the President of the United States FAIRLY, so that the next time I (and the people) win, you won’t have to write an apology to your readers for a job poorly done! GL

Fueling journalism

Trump has repeatedly referred to the “Failing New York Times” — well before he was elected to the White House. He even used the insult during an interview with a Times reporter on December 28, though with different reasoning.

“Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times. So they basically have to let me win.”

There is little doubt that Trump has helped fuel journalism in the United States. The industry has struggled to find sustainable business models in the digital age. Trump’s candidacy and subsequent election has helped boost readership of many major publications, such as the Washington Post which reached 1 million paid digital subscriptions before September last year (CNN). 

The Times, too, has benefited. Digital subscription for the publication spiked by 276,000 in the last three months of 2016. More new readers registered in final quarter of 2016 than the entire year of 2015. This was the largest quarterly subscription increase since the Times began charging for online access in 2011.

Readers want to know about Trump.

Interest in the Times’ journalism has continued to climb since Trump’s inauguration. The newspaper reported an additional 105,000 digital-only subscriptions between July and September 2017. This brought digital revenue to $86 million, 46 percent higher than the same time in 2016. All of this while the president continues to refer to it as “failing” when it is not.

Donald J. Trump on Twitter

It’s hard to read the Failing New York Times or the Amazon Washington Post because every story/opinion, even if should be positive, is bad!

The surge in subscriptions has helped the New York Times’ mission to become less reliant on the traditional income stream from print advertising:  Revenue from print dropped 15.8 percent in 2016. The company was also concerned with the click-bait culture created by an over reliance on digital advertising.

The future of the Times was in question in 2009 when the paper agreed to a $250 million loan from Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim (New York Times). The company has had challenges and will continue to do so as the internet evolves.

A long and complicated relationship

The New York Times is not the only media outlet to receive a Trump-related boost in readership, while being criticized by the sitting president. Not only did the “Amazon Washington Post” reach a million digital subscribers this year but CNN’s television channel attracted 51 percent more viewers this February compared to February 2016, according to Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide. This surge came after Trump publicly attacked the network for “fake news” during a presidential press conference (CNN).

Donald Trump shuts down CNN reporter – BBC News

Asked to explain his “Are we living in Nazi Germany?” tweet earlier on Wednesday, Mr Trump said it was “a disgrace fake news was released to the public”. He added that it was something they did in Nazi Germany. He criticised the news outlet BuzzFeed for publishing the unsubstantiated claims, calling it a “failing pile of garbage”.

What separates the Times from Trump’s other targets is that he continues to give interviews to the publication.

Last week’s interview followed a lengthy conversation with three Times reporters in July. During the election, Trump had an illuminating off-the-record interview with the publication’s editorial board. Buzzfeed reported that during the interview Trump alluded he might not be committed to his strict anti-immigration platform.

Beneath Trump’s combative language towards the Times is a complicated relationship that began over 40 years ago. Major landlord accused of antiblack bias in the city” was the headline of the paper’s first story that focused on Trump, then a protege of his father. Three years later, after the family company Trump Management agreed to end practices seen as racially discriminatory, the Times ran a positive profile of the up-and-coming real estate tycoon.  

The Times has reported extensively on Trump’s political and business dealings in New York. His policy feuds with former New York City mayor Ed Koch were well-chronicled by the newspaper, as well as his possible presidential run in 1987.

‘Driving agendas and validating public figures’

However, coverage by the Times does not guarantee the biggest online audience. The 167-year-old publication is not the most-read news source. A July 2017 study managed by eBiz, a site that tracks web traffic, ranked www.nytimes.com as the fifth most viewed news service in the U.S. Yahoo! News came in first, while CNN placed fourth, ahead of the Times by 25 million unique views per month.

Chris Cilliza, a CNN editor-at-large, speculated in July that Trump sees the Times as having the “power to drive agendas and validate public figures.” This is why he’s willing to make himself available to their reporters at the risk of being portrayed negatively.

Trump met with the Times editorial board weeks after his 2016 victory, which included then-publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger, father of the newly appointed Arthur G. Sulzberger. But no plans have been made for the president to speak with A.G. Sulzberger.

Trump said in today’s tweet that the publication should live up to its founder’s vision: “To give the news impartially, without fear or FAVOR, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved.”

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