“The New York Times” Has Badly Lost Its Bearings

Joe Kahn, the next executive editor of The New York Timeswill inherit a great news organization that has lost its bearings when it comes to national and political coverage.

When the current editor, Dean Baquet, took over the top job in 2014, American politics still worked more or less by the same rules that had applied for decades: The two rival parties agreed on the facts; they just interpreted them very differently.

Enter Donald Trump, on a wave of ignorance, disinformation, and white grievance, taking the Republican Party to what had been considered an extremist fringe of alternate facts and conspiracy theories. The differences between the parties were no longer about policy; they were about truth and lies.

Then Trump and his loyalists tried to steal an election. The danger to democracy was no longer abstract. The Republican Party aligned itself against the concept of universal suffrage and the principle of majority rule.

Baquet did not rise to this challenge. He treated the divisions about basic facts and democratic rule as just so much partisan squabbling. During the 2016 campaign, in the name of balance, his savaged staff Hillary Clinton and went easy on Donald Trump.

He stuck to the old political-journalism algorithms even as they stopped producing anything approximating the truth and instead privileged lies and normalized the abnormal.

He ignored and belittled his critics. He failed to see that his news organization, which sets the standard for the American journalism community, had lost the plot.

And this is where Joe Kahn comes in.

Kahn was Baquet’s deputy for six years, and so far there have been zero gleams of daylight between the two men. Since his appointment was announced, Kahn’s defense of the status quo has been aggressive to the point of belligerent.

But once he takes charge, Kahn will have a reputation to build, not to protect.

Baquet had already set his course before this massive political transformation became fully realized. Kahn has no such excuse.


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