Journalists Say, ‘Thank You, Mr. President’ for Boost to News Industry
The New York Times Op-Ed columnist Maureen Dowd recalls a pivotal moment in her professional relationship with Donald Trump.
“He took to Twitter to declare me a wacky neurotic dope,” Dowd said. “Twenty-thousand people ‘liked’ what he said.”
Dowd joined The Times’ chief Washington correspondent, Carl Hulse, Saturday night in a conversation on President Trump and the state of American politics one year after the election, an event hosted by the Long Center for Performing Arts.
Dowd said what surprised her most about the president was a conversation she had with him after a 2016 Chicago campaign rally was cancelled amid stirrings of violence.
“He was encouraging violence against reporters, and people were having fistfights," Dowd said. "I called him and I said ‘How can you justify this? You love reporters, why are you putting their lives in danger?’ He really thought about it for a minute and said, ‘You know, I got to No. 1 that way and I feel like I have to keep doing it to stay at No. 1.’ It was a really honest answer and I think that’s where he finds himself today. He’s afraid to give up this dark thing he has going.”
Responding to Hulse’s query on the president’s state of mind, Dowd said she believed President Trump is “living in his own reality.”
“There’s been a lot of stories that suggest he’s miserable, and I don’t agree with them, simply because I think that he thinks he’s doing a good job,” Dowd said. “If he realized how unpopular he was and what people thought of him he probably would be miserable. But he has a job where people have to play 'Hail to the Chief' as he walks into a room, and I’m sure he likes that very much.”
Noting recent fears of North Korean aggression, Dowd said trying to predict foreign policy was an exercise in futility.
“This is why sometimes I think what I do for a living is kind of meaningless, because you really can’t tell what someone is going to do in office,” Dowd said. “We try to give you all the information about who someone is, but you can’t always tell. Once you get to be president and because of this crazy new way of making policy with Twitter insults, the combination of your ego and ‘mine is bigger than yours’ is dangerous.”
According to Hulse, The New York Times is trying to combat the public’s loss of interest with new forms of media. He said the president is a factor in the resurgence of its subscriptions.
“Our business is so crazily changed,” Hulse said. “Now we do so much more. We’re doing everything we can to increase revenue, and it’s doing better than we expected. And that honestly has something to do with the president. At the end of this, will people lose interest? We try to form habits so that they don’t.”
Dowd shared a modern metaphor to describe the relationship between Trump and the media, calling it the “era of presidency as selfie, press as selfie stick.”
“Trump is a narcissist and we are the mirror,” Dowd said. “Even though he insults us all the time, we are his most intense and important relationship. He wouldn’t know what to do if we all disappeared one day. He would be completely lost, or more lost. He’s a heroin addict for attention, and we are addicted to him.”
She added that the volume of stories generating from the White House is unprecedented.
“We’ve never had a dozen huge, breaking news stories cascading through the day,” Dowd said. “When I covered Bush senior, I don’t think I got in the paper for the first six months. Finally, he showered with his dog and that was my big story. These White House reporters are getting story after story after story. You can’t even refresh your browser fast enough.”
Hulse ultimately credits the president with the upward swing of the media industry.
“The great irony of this is that Donald Trump is saving the news business,” Hulse said. “We were in real trouble. All I have to say is ‘Thank you, Mr. President.”
Photo courtesy of the Long Center.
Freshman Journalism Major