For first time the failing @nytimes will take an ad (a bad one) to help save its failing reputation. Try reporting accurately & fairly!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 26, 2017
— NYTCo Communications (@NYTimesComm) February 2, 2017
Is the New York Times failing, as Donald Trump repeatedly asserts via twitter? Let’s look at the numbers:
During the last quarter of 2016, coincidentally timed with the election, the New York Times had more than 3 million paid subscribers to print and digital. The paper also added an additional 276,000 new digital subscriptions. That equates to its best quarter since 2011. The robust digital subscription base increased the newspaper’s revenue by 21.9%. What is remarkable is that this increase in subscribers occurred despite a decline in advertising revenues. Indeed, for the fourth quarter of 2016, New York Times ad revenues dropped 9.7%, while circulation revenue increased 5%. Perhaps ad revenue is the only number Mr. Trump is looking at when he refers to the paper as “failing.” Total revenue for the paper fell a mere 1.1%, from $444.7 million to $439.7 million. Putting those numbers in perspective, the New York Times has managed to curtail significant losses in profit despite decreased ad revenue and has also managed to reach a record number of digital and print subscribers.
— CNN (@CNN) February 24, 2017
If the newspaper is not failing, then one may ask why is it taking out a paid television ad for the first time in its history? To answer that question, let’s first examine the advertisement in question:
The ad, to be aired during the Academy Awards, is quite simple and to the point. It is anchored with a number of conflicting statements, and always goes back to three words, “the truth is” — “The truth is alternative facts are lies. The truth is the media is dishonest. …The truth is a woman should dress like a woman. The truth is women’s rights are human rights” and ends with “The truth is hard/the truth is hard to know/the truth is more important than ever.” The ad then closes with the logo of The New York Times.
It is news to no one that the New York Times has, of late, been constantly criticized by Donald trump as being fake news and failing. Here is just a snapshot of some the tweets Mr. Trump has posted about the Times:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2017
The failing @nytimes writes total fiction concerning me. They have gotten it wrong for two years, and now are making up stories & sources!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 6, 2017
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2017
Additionally, as recently as Friday, February 24, reporters from the New York Times, CNN, Politico, the Los Angeles Times, and BuzzFeed were barred from attending a White House briefing. Notably, reporters from conservative news outlets were permitted including Fox News, Breitbart, and the Washington Times. Why were certain news media outlets barred? According to Sean Spicer, journalist from news organizations critical of Donald Trump were not singled out. But when pressed further, the White House did not explain why it picked certain news organizations and rejected others.
So, in the face of being denied access to a White House briefing, being labelled “fake news,” being called the “enemy of the American people,” is there any question left as to why the New York Times is running an ad emphasizing the truth and the importance of allowing a media to report the news as it happens?
For one, I respect the New York Times for choosing to run this ad now, especially knowing the critical backlash it will receive from Donald Trump, his administration, and his supporters. This is a news organization that knows truth, transparency, and honest reporting is more important than being popular with the current administration.