In a political climate dominated by politicians’ criticism of the news media, Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times, led a discussion at the University of Nevada, Reno, on the role of the news media in the last presidential election, Twitter and fake news.
In a public forum hosted by the Reynolds School of Journalism, Baquet began his discussion in the Joe Crowley Student Union with journalism students and others on Wednesday, Feb. 8. It was one of three speaking engagements Baquet made that day.
To open his discussion, Baquet told students that as a reporter and executive editor, he tries to keep his stance on political issues to himself.
“Almost all my friends are journalists. I don’t think I know the political nature of any of them,” Baquet said.
Baquet said Leonard Downie, Jr, former executive editor of the Washington Post from 1991 to 2008, took his journalistic credibility so far to the point that he would not even vote in elections.
“I don’t participate in anything that is overtly political,” Baquet said.
Baquet doesn’t attend Christmas parties in the White House and has pulled the New York Times out of participating in any and all political parties.
Baquet said he believes reporters must objectively hold those in power accountable. He said you have to question and question and be sure to be skeptical of everything. Baquet also said it is important to cover both the little things, such as tweets and statements, and the larger things that influence people’s lives.
Before being named the executive editor of the New York Times, Baquet was an editor of the Los Angeles Times and was also a reporter for The Time- Picayune in New Orleans and for the Chicago Tribune, where he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for leading a team of reporters who ended up exposing corruption in the local City Council.
Baquet touched on social media and the role of Twitter and other social media sites in the presidential election and explained that President Donald J. Trump’s tweets are a direct reflection of the president himself.
“His tweets at 6 o’clock in the morning have a lot of significance,” Baquet said.
Baquet also recognized the growing issue and national discussion of “fake news,” saying there has always been fake news.
“You were always walking past tabloids that said, you know, Hillary and Bill Clinton killed Vincent Foster,” Baquet said.
Baquet said social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have to work harder to police and regulate fake news.
The New York Times has been harshly criticized by Trump both during his campaign and during the first weeks of his presidency.
As an editor for the New York Times, Baquet said the newspaper’s job is to cover Trump’s presidency and cover him “aggressively.”
“Our job is to ask hard questions of everybody,” Baquet said. “It’s very easy to sit in Manhattan or Washington and think that a lot of people don’t like this stuff.”