New York Times Changes Headline on Story About Trump’s Gun Violence Speech After Backlash

“It was a bad headline,” executive editor Dean Baquet admits

Last Updated: August 6, 2019 @ 11:31 AM

Following a severe backlash, the New York Times on Monday changed the headline on a story about the speech President Donald Trump made early Monday in response to the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

On Monday evening, New York Times print editor Tom Jolly tweeted an image of the paper’s Tuesday morning print edition, featuring a headline about the speech that read “Trump Urges Unity Vs. Racism.” Later editions of the paper carried a new headline: “Assailing Hate But Not Guns.”

The original headline sparked widespread condemnation for everything from eliding the actual content of the speech, not referring to Trump as racist, or failing to acknowledge additional context, such as Trump’s long history of comments about immigrants.

On Tuesday, New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet admitted the paper had goofed. “It was written on deadline and when it was passed along for approval we all saw it was a bad headline and changed it pretty quickly,” told The Daily Beast. “I understand the concern people have. Headlines matter. But I hope they read the coverage, which I will argue was strong.”

The original headline struck a nerve. Dozens of people claimed to have unsubscribed to the paper, or threatened to do so. But it wasn’t just civilians; the headline was also criticized by prominent media personalities and public figures.

“Lives literally depend on you doing better, NYT. Please do,” said Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Cory Booker.

“Unbelievable” said Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke.

“An absurd headline. Problematic framing. Inaccurate. Non-contextual,” Soledad O’Brien wrote.

“Hey, @nytimes,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, “what happened to “The Truth Is Worth It?” Not the truth. Not worth it.”

The Times had its defenders too, including The Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg, who tweeted “The New York Times employs 1600 journalists who do indispensable work across the globe. The paper publishes millions and millions of words each year. Sometimes it makes mistakes. Also, President Trump would like you to cancel your subscriptions.”

But overall, reactions were negative. And according to New York Magazine contributor Yashar Ali, it wasn’t just readers, but Times staffers who objected. “NYT can be an insular institution, particularly when it comes under criticism. But I have never received more texts from furious NYT reporters/writers than I have tonight. They feel like their hard work is being sullied by a horrible headline. And they’re all blaming Dean Baquet,” Ali tweeted Tuesday night.

The second headline also had critics, including George Conway, Kellyanne Conway’s husband, who called it “strike two.”

Compare the original version and the update below:

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