Here’s The New York Times’ plan for covering the Trump administration

February 17, 2017

In the early days of the Trump administration, no news organization has been a bigger target than The New York Times. The Gray Lady has been unsparing in its coverage of President Trump and frequently provoked his ire on Twitter.

So, does all that abuse affect the paper’s coverage?

“I think the answer is no,” said Carolyn Ryan, who ran The New York Times’ campaign coverage. “…When I was putting together the team, I was looking for people who were really creative and competitive and aggressive reporters. The thing that was luckily also in abundance was thick skin.”

Ryan (who was just promoted to The New York Times’ masthead) spoke with Poynter for Covering 45, its weekly podcast on Trump and the press. During the conversation, she went over how The Times is expanding its coverage of healthcare, immigration and fact-checking, its use of the word “lie” and whether its reporters are fatigued by Trump’s constant criticism.

On the decision to use the word “lie”

“The first instance in which we used this — which was quite high-profile, and we did get a lot of pushback on it — was when then-candidate Trump came out at Trump hotel and said that President Obama was born in the United States and that Hillary Clinton started birthirism and he was going to end it.”

“It felt like a lie is not the definition you described, but it’s also a deceitful statement in the face of incontrovertible evidence. And it felt like this certainly aligned with that definition.”

On growing its fact-checking footprint

“One hire that we just made in the past month that we’re very excited about is another fact-checker — a rising star in the world of fact-checking. There’s no lack of work when it comes to fact-checking, and the relentlessness of the facts that are questioned, or the outright falsehoods and the need to, in real time, grapple with these questions as our readers are grappling with them, that takes a lot of journalistic effort.”

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“You have to be right, you need to be fast, and you need good editors to make that all happen and you need to present that information in a way that’s accessible.”

On expanding its healthcare and immigration coverage

“One key area is in the coverage of health care. Not just understanding the policy, but really understanding the politics of it. You’ve seen it starting to play out across the country in grassroots events, in rallies, in protests, and you’re going to see it play out in a number of different ways in the states.”

“Secondly, as you’ve seen already in this already in this very brief interlude of the young administration, immigration is going to be huge. So, we’re also looking, through the national desk, to create an immigration team. We have a very talented editor who is going to be overseeing immigration reporters. And again, that is a story where politics and policy and real lives come together in a really dramatic way. So we’re looking to have some reporters who can capture that as it’s unfolding.”

On the attacks from the president

“It’s a very contentious era in which to cover politics. I think the reporters are professionals, and they call these stories as they see them. But I do think that there is a draining, relentlessly emotionally battered reality to being a political reporter these days that is a little exhausting for them.”