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New York Times public editor: The day the Times woke up

January 7, 2021

It took the New York Times a bit over a year to go from wishy-washy headlines like “Trump Urges Unity Vs. Racism” to “Mob Incited by Trump Storms Capitol.” What changed?

It wasn’t Trump. He came to power claiming a prerogative to bend reality. It will be four years in a few weeks—when Joseph Biden is inaugurated as the forty-sixth president of the United States on January 20—since the first example of his presidential alternative facts: the size of the crowd at his own inauguration.

His insistence that he won an election that was not particularly close is in keeping with his approach to public life ever since he emerged as a lesser New York City real estate developer. What changed most notably yesterday is that the Times and other power centers in American politics have accepted the reality that has been staring them in the face.

The Times’ comprehensive coverage of a grim day in American democracy is to be applauded. But it, and we, must not remember today as when Trump went too far, but as the day when the Times and other arbiters finally woke up to what had been there all along.

Gabriel Snyder is a contributing editor to CJR.