Is the New York Times Apology to Donald Trump Too Little Too Late?

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Last week, after the Trump victory became formal, The New York Times issued an “apology” and rededication to fair reporting practices.  For many readers, however it was not enough.

What they Said…

Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the NYT’s publisher, issued a statement that said, in part, that “After such an erratic and unpredictable election … Did Donald Trump’s sheer unconventionality lead us and other news outlets to underestimate his support among American voters?”

Well, yes it did apparently since NYT made the decision to break their trust with the public because they considered him too potentially dangerous as a candidate and needed to protect the public from him – at that time they had already made a public declaration toward bias. In fact, for many Americans it was offensive, as there was an assumption that they represented all Americans.

And it wasn’t just one reporter in their organization; they made it part of their policy to ignore the accepted rules of journalism and unbiased reporting to swing full-tilt in the other direction. Now in their “apology and promise to do better,” they continue to claim they reported on both candidates fairly, but they will rededicate their efforts toward true journalism and “report America and the world honestly, without fear or favor.”

Effective Crisis Communications?

The point of confessing your sins publicly and promising to do better is that you own up fully to your part in the problem and give specifics as to what you will do to fix it in the future. The Times’  bare bones apology continues to ignore much of what needs to be addressed – They are ignoring the reasons for at least half of the voting public’s feelings about a biased and deceitful media – whether or not those feelings are accurate, if they are not adequately addressed then the NYT bias and perceptions of bias will not go away.

As it stands, they’ve simply admitted the very least of what many Americans already “knew.” They have not given specific steps they will take, only promised to be more truthful and fair in the future. Egads, have they not yet realized that taking such a stand continues their position of treating anyone reading their statement like they are dumb as dirt?

Turning it Around

The NYT faces more problems than just the public’s opinion about “journalism” and a biased media presentation. They also face issues relating to the Internet. With every year their readership dwindles. Fewer people want to sit down and thumb through a newspaper, and those who do are an aging demographic.

The fact they didn’t recognize that, or that their “apology” was insufficient, may make it increasingly difficult to fully recover.  Their best chance is in turning the tide quickly and putting together a workable plan that the public views as measurable and going in the right direction, not just empty promises to do better.

The NYT is a dynasty and part of American history, but to continue to grow and move forth they need to pull together a better plan if they don’t want to be perceived as forever biased.

Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, and one of America’s most well-respected Public Relations professionals.

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