New York Times Reports ‘Higher Volume of Cancellations’ After Trump Speech Headline Backlash

Paper changed headline after widespread criticism Monday night

Last Updated: August 6, 2019 @ 10:17 PM

The New York Times saw an increase in subscription cancellations after a reader backlash over its lead headline on a story about a Donald Trump speech on Monday, a Times spokesperson told TheWrap.

The paper has “seen a higher volume of cancellations today than is typical,” the spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Early Monday night, the Times tweeted a preview of its Tuesday print edition, which featured a story about Trump’s speech following the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton with the headline “Trump Urges Unity Vs. Racism.” Shortly after, a wave of criticism from readers, journalists and even prominent politicians like Cory Booker and Beto O’Rourke followed.

Among other concerns, critics said the headline failed to communicate the actual substance of the speech, and didn’t acknowledge Trump’s history of inflammatory comments about immigrants.

Readers who expressed their outrage over social media said the headline confirmed their sense that the Times was not covering the Trump administration with sufficient skepticism, and did not apply the appropriate context or meaning to the president’s actions.

The paper later changed the headline to “Assailing Hate But Not Guns” for the Tuesday issue’s second printing, and on Tuesday morning Executive Editor Dean Baquet told Columbia Journalism Review that critics had a point, calling it “a bad headline” written too hastily.

But throughout the ordeal, hundreds of people said they intended to cancel their NYT subscriptions. It’s not known precisely how many made good on their threats: aside from acknowledging the increase in cancellations,  the paper did not disclose any specific figures.

“We tied the poor print hub’s arm behind its back because it was too small a space,” Baquet told CJR. “This is a story with some subtlety to it. It needed to do three things: convey what Donald Trump said, the reasons to be skeptical of what Donald Trump said, and white supremacy as an evident problem.”