Still reeling from its failure to anticipate Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election, the mainstream news media also finds itself scrambling to adjust to a new role -- hauled onstage to serve as one of the main characters in the incoming administration’s public theater.
No surprise that the nation’s liberal newspaper of record, The New York Times, has proved to be the favorite target of the rumbustious president-elect. Early Tuesday morning, Trump took to Twitter to announce that he had canceled a scheduled meeting with the newspaper’s editors after they allegedly tried to change the “terms and conditions” governing the meeting at the last minute. In a typical piece of Trumpery, however, the president-elect later rescinded his refusal and finally ended up meeting with NYT staffers.
In his first tweet, Trump wrote: “I cancelled today's meeting with the failing @nytimes when the terms and conditions of the meeting were changed at the last moment. Not nice” — then complained again about the newspaper’s negative coverage in the second: “Perhaps a new meeting will be set up with the @nytimes. In the meantime, they continue to cover me inaccurately and with a nasty tone!”
As always, Trump also seeks to undermine the credibility and legitimacy of publications that criticize him by attacking their business performance, usually an easy enough target with newspaper publishers.
In a third tweet, he noted the newspaper’s own admission that readers have complained about unfair coverage: “The failing @nytimes just announced that complaints about them are at a 15-year high. I can fully understand that — but why announce?”
The NYT said that the first meeting with Trump was supposed to be small, informal and off the record, with another on-the-record meeting with more reporters and columnists to follow. Neither Trump or the newspaper disclosed what the agreed upon conditions for the meeting were, or how the newspaper’s leadership allegedly tried to revise them at the last minute, or how they later resolved the conflict.
Trump’s latest tweets are another sign of the “new normal” that the legacy news media will confront. They now serve as scapegoats and hate objects for an administration that considers them part of a despised establishment.
Last week, Trump took another swipe at the NYT, again focusing on its alleged business failures, tweeting: “Wow, the @nytimes is losing thousands of subscribers because of their very poor and highly inaccurate coverage of the ‘Trump phenomena.’”
According to The New York Times Co., subscription numbers at the flagship newspaper are up year-over-year, thanks, in large part, to sales of digital subs.